BETHEL — Former Maine School Administrative District 44 board member Stephanie Erickson has filed a book challenge for “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl,” saying it stereotypes churchgoers as child predators, athletes as homophobic and Israelis as promiscuous.

She asked that it moved to a different area of the Telstar Middle/High School library because she believes it’s inappropriate for middle school students.

The debut novel by Jesse Andrews was released in 2012. “It is the story of Greg Gaines, the terminally awkward groundhog-looking kid who just wants to survive high school without anyone really paying attention to him; his only friend and coworker Earl Jackson, who is the creative genius that he makes deeply terrible movies with; and Rachel, a girl with cancer that Greg’s mom is forcing him to hang out with,” according to the author’s website

The book, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” in the Telstar Middle School Library has been challenged by former SAD-44 School Board member, Stephanie Erickson, of Greenwood.

Erickson listed specific quotes from the book under the headings pedophilia, sexual abuse and vulgar language. She wrote in her complaint that the novel stereotypes churchgoers as child predators, athletes as homophobic and Israelis as promiscuous.

“While I agree with (school librarian) Ms. Fraser that the overall message of “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl” is important, I am so disappointed to have to defend what should be obvious: it is grossly inappropriate for a middle school library, being accessible to students as young as 10 years old.

“Most distributors catalog this book as young adult, with the youngest recommended age I found being 14. The author himself describes it as a “fictional young-adult book.”


Her complaint went on to say, “Ms. Fraser stated that she coaches middle school students when checking out books that she feels may not be inappropriate to them. This is a faulty approach at best, and one that stands to potentially cause significant harm to students. First, it is not in line with school policy. Instructional and and Library-Media Materials Policy directs the library-media specialist to consider the students’ maturity level when selecting material and gives no flexibility to forgo this criterion.

Bypassing policy and making personal judgment calls on individual students after selecting material undermines the Criteria for Selection process outlined in the policy, she wrote, and has the potential to cause serious harm to students who are not developmentally ready to be exposed to certain sexual content, particularly if a student is a victim of sexual abuse.

“Middle school-aged students may not be able to separate fictional content from real-world experience, which has the potential to damage (or deepen an already damaged) personal psyche,” Erickson wrote.

Erickson wrote that she “recently proposed a change to the school policy that would have essentially separated sexually explicit material by school level. I believe this to be a fair compromise to avoid ‘book banning,’ while also removing access to sexually explicit material that is not suitable to younger students.”

“I ask that the district consider such changes, whether my proposal or otherwise similar changes,” she wrote.

Along with her complaint, Erickson submitted 25 signatures from residents of Greenwood, Bethel, Albany Township, Woodstock, Hanover and Newry.

Superintendent Mark Kenney informed the board of the challenge at its Nov. 6 meeting. He said a committee made up of an administrator, the school librarian, a teacher, a community member, and the English department chairman have been assigned to review the policy and the book.

The school board will make a recommendation at their meeting Dec. 18. It could vote on the issue then or at the following meeting.

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