A special School Board meeting occurred in Dixfield Aug. 9 to discuss if the graphic novel “Gender Queer” should remain in the Dirigo High School library.

Following the board’s own protocol, a special committee reconsidered the material and determined it suitable for the library. This should have been the end of the story, but an appeal elevated the challenge to board review.

As chair of the Maine Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, I commend the School Board for taking time to review this material, and commitments to democratic behavior.

Many board members stated they had open minds as they prepared for the meeting. RSU 56 has a policy for this: Teaching about Controversial/Sensitive Issues.

It’s disappointing that the School Board did not abide by its own policies. MLA believes book bans harm communities. Maia Kobabe’s work is not pornography. If people find it unsettling, they have the right to not read it, but they should practice tolerance by allowing others who do wish to read it the freedom to do so.

Intellectual freedom means that people can find information without restriction. Censorship is the suppression of ideas that certain groups find controversial. Censorship undermines American values of freedom.

Dirigo students had their access to information censored. What lessons has the board taught the students in their community who saw themselves in Kobabe?

The lesson we see is that the school will stand by its students unless the opposition gets loud enough for it to be too inconvenient. This is how democracy dies.

Samantha Duckworth, Brunswick

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