JAY — The complaint process has started regarding two books in the Spruce Mountain High School library after a parent and a community member raised concerns.

“I want you to be aware that we are in the beginning of a challenge regarding two books that are in the high school library,” Superintendent Scott Albert told Regional School Unit 73 Board of Directors Thursday night, Sept. 8. “We are starting the complaint process.”

Director Andrew Sylvester asked if the names of the two books could be shared.

“Gender Queer[: A Memoir] and White Fragility[: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism],” Albert replied.

In August Directors of the Dixfield-based school district voted 7-2 to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from the Dirigo High School library. Written and illustrated by Maia Kobabe, the book recounts Kobabe’s journey from adolescence to adulthood and the author’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality, according to multiple online sources. The controversial book on gender identity and sexuality was published in 2019.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, the Bonny Eagle school board voted not to remove the book from the middle school library.


A Farmington bookstore has partnered with Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance to offer teenagers, educators and librarians free copies of the book. “Gender Queer” is the most banned book at the high school level in America, according to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, the alliance’s executive director.

“White Fragility” is an international bestseller written by Robin DeAngelo published in 2018. According to Amazon, she coined the term ‘white fragility’ in 2011 to describe “the ways in which ordinary white people react when it is pointed out to them that they have done or said something that has – unintentionally – caused racial offense or hurt.”

In her book, DeAngelo “examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively,” according to the website Goodreads.

“In the larger national conversation about race, racism, anti-racism, individual and systemic action and reaction, White Fragility has been a key title for readers seeking guidance. DiAngelo calls out past indifference from whites when facing critiques of race and class and challenges their often “fragile” response of tears and anger,” an overview from Barnes and Noble states.

In 2020, Maine bookstores and libraries saw increased demands for books about race following the death of George Floyd.

“One individual has already met with our librarian to discuss their complaint, the other is making an appointment to do so,” Albert wrote in an email Friday. “In the first case the complaint was not resolved, not sure about the second one yet. The next step if the complaint is not resolved with the librarian is to meet with the building principal. The complainants filled out the form before going through the first [two] steps even though they should have waited. Despite that, we as a district need to make sure that both them and us go through the steps.”


Amy Ryder is the district librarian and each school has an education technician who helps in the library, Albert noted.

Instructional and Library-Media Material Selection, Code IJJ in RSU 73’s policy manual was last updated Dec. 13, 2012. “The Board delegates responsibility for the selection of instructional materials and library-media resources to the professionally trained personnel employed by the school system, subject to the criteria and procedures for selection and the Board’s policy on challenged materials as described below,” according to the policy.

Among the criteria listed for selection under the policy are:

• Take into consideration the varied interests, abilities, and maturity levels of the students served;

• Foster respect and appreciation for cultural diversity and varied opinions;

• Give comprehensive, accurate and balanced representation to minorities and women in history, science, leadership and the arts and acknowledge the contributions of ethnic, religious and cultural groups to our American heritage;


• Present a balance of opposing sides of controversial issues to enable students to develop a capability for critical analysis;

• Stimulate growth in factual knowledge, literary appreciation, aesthetic values and ethical standards;

• Provide a background of information that will enable students to make intelligent decisions in their daily lives.

The policy section on parental authority notes, “A student’s parent/guardian may inspect, upon request, any instructional material used as part of the curriculum.” It goes on to state, “The Board recognizes that the final authority as to what materials an individual student will be exposed rests with that student’s parents or guardians.

“However, at no time will the wishes of one child’s parents to restrict his/her reading or viewing of a particular item infringe on other parents’ rights to permit their children to read or view the same material. Library-media center materials will not be removed from the collection because of criticism except in accordance with Board policy.”

The policy further indicates a complaint will first be heard by the person(s) providing the materials, then referred to the building principal to complete a challenge form if the complaint isn’t resolved. The completed form is sent to the superintendent who then appoints a review committee. That committee reads the materials, weighs the values and faults, then forms opinions based on the material as a whole. The committee’s written report is sent to the superintendent who informs the complainant of the results.


While that process is ongoing the materials may not be removed, according to the policy.

The issue may be appealed to the Board of Directors who can discuss it during a regular board meeting or call a special meeting to hear testimony from both viewpoints, the policy notes. It further states, “The material in question shall be:

1. Reviewed objectively and in its full content;

2. Evaluated in terms of the needs and interest of students, school, curriculum and community;

3. Considered in the light of differing opinions; and

4. Reviewed in light of the criteria for initial selection and purpose as provided herein.”

The Board will announce its decision in writing not later than the conclusion of the next regular meeting of the Board following its receipt of said testimony, the policy concludes.

“I suggest you take a look at the policy,” Albert told directors.

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