LEEDS — A Turner parent appealed a review committee’s decision to keep a controversial book about gender identity and sexuality in the library at Leavitt Area High School at the board of directors meeting Thursday.

Tarasue Levesque requested that the district review and remove “Gender Queer” from the high school in November, expressing concerns about inappropriate sexual content and its negative depiction of pap smears, a process to test for cervical cancer.

“A lot of our community members have voiced their opinions to me and (the board) that they are not OK with the book being in the school system,” Levesque said.

“Gender Queer,” a book on gender identity and sexuality, has either been banned by some school districts in Maine or is being considered for bans. Portland Press Herald file photo

“Gender Queer” is a graphic novel written by Maia Kobabe, who identifies as nonbinary and asexual. The 2019 book depicts the author’s personal journey from childhood to adulthood, through gender dysphoria and adolescent crushes and personal discovery.

Maine school boards have been split on their view of “Gender Queer.” Jay-based Regional School Unit 73 voted in November to keep the graphic novel in its high school library, while neighboring Dixfield-based RSU 56 voted in August to remove it.

A committee created to review the book in Maine School Administrative District 52 recommended that it should remain available in the high school library, but stated it should at no time be required reading nor be available to students below grade 9.


In addition to reading the book, the committee considered professional reviews, grade-level recommendations and several awards it received.

“The author’s purpose in sharing their experience is not to influence anyone, but rather share their experiences, challenges and triumphs,” according to the review committee report. “Sharing their story in resilience in navigating both family and society is powerful.”

Readers who identify as LGBTQ have the ability to see how an adult navigated through similar challenges, while other readers can better understand their lived experiences, the report continued.

According to Amazon, the publisher recommends “Gender Queer” for age 16 and older. Several other sources included with the report say the book is appropriate for grade 9 and up.

The committee was composed of Leavitt Principal Eben Shaw, librarian Judith Lashman, social studies teacher Isaiah Davis, health education teacher Caroline Bochtler-Labrie and Cathy Carey of Leeds, a former MSAD 52 director. Superintendent Cari Medd appointed each member of the committee, according to district policy.

Levesque appealed the committee’s decision to the board of directors, which will have the final say on whether the book should remain in the high school library. The vote is planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Tripp Middle School.


Directors will have the opportunity to consult the district’s legal counsel and listen to comments from the community before making their decision.

“When you do read the book, remember that you have life experiences, you have an adult mind,” Levesque said. “These are kids who don’t have that yet in their life.”

More people should read the book and share their opinion with the board, she said. But she called on the community to keep the discussion civil.

Levesque said she and Lashman, the high school librarian, are “complete opposites” who have different opinions about the book. Yet, both have been able to respectfully share their viewpoints with each other.

“I don’t want the community and the school board and everyone divided,” she said. “Everyone just comes and fights … I don’t think that’s a good example to show our kids.”

Medd thanked Levesque for her conduct during the book review process: “You have been a great participant in this process, very respectful … I know this is not a simple thing, and I know that you didn’t do it lightly, so I really appreciate the manner in which you’ve approached this.”


She instructed directors to read “Gender Queer” in full before the board’s next meeting, but reminded them that they must not discuss their opinions with other directors outside of the meeting.

“That deliberation process has to happen in public,” she said.

In other news, the board unanimously approved the sale of a couple hundred old MacBooks to Second Life Mac for $13,000. The company offered to purchase each MacBook for $65, no matter its condition.

Other companies offered higher estimates, but would have inspected each laptop before purchasing.

“This is a guaranteed price,” Leeds director Joseph McLean said. “Seven-year-old MacBooks with middle schoolers are not all in the best condition, so we feel pretty good about this.”

The board additionally approved a $1,236 grant from New Dimensions Federal Credit Union to Turner Elementary School to support food insecurity programs for the school community.

Comments are not available on this story.