Gay Book Pulled Off Reading List

Rainbow BoysWEBSTER, NEW YORK – Webster Central School District officials have removed a gay-themed book from a summer reading list for high school students after receiving complaints from parents.
The book, Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez, which was released in 2001, is about gay teen life. It won the International Reading Association’s 2003 Young Adults’ Choice award, and the American Library Association selected it as a Best Book for Young Adults.
Sanchez was the star of the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival at Fairport High School in April, which was attended by about 500 youths.
The book has faced similar challenges at municipal and school libraries across the United States.
“Parents know that it’s our job to look out for their children and I think parents trust the Webster school district that we would always have their children’s interests first in mind,” said Ellen Agostinelli, Webster’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Agostinelli said she got some telephone calls from parents complaining about the book but would not say how many. She said district officials are just starting a review of the reading list of about 200 books and she decided to pull the book until the entire list could be reviewed.
The timeframe for that review and the criteria that will be used have not been determined, she said.
“I read it and I have some questions about it, as well,” Agostinelli said.
The gay theme is not one of her concerns, but Agostinelli declined to say what is.
“I’m not going to get into this,” she said.
This is the second year students in middle and high school have been required to read two books from the list during the summer and submit reports when they return to school.
The book list was created by school librarians and English teachers.
Agostinelli said it has not been decided if any public meetings will be scheduled for discussions of the topic.
Rainbow Boys was not removed from the district’s libraries. But Ove Overmyer, a library assistant at the Rochester Public Library, is concerned that purging a book from a reading list is a precursor to having it taken from the shelves.
“It starts with book challenges and then they’ll ask to have the book removed. We’ve seen this process before all over the country, especially when it deals with gay-oriented literature. It’s censorship plain and simple, and there’s no place for it in the school district or in the public library system,” Overmyer said.
Kris Hinesley, executive director of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, said “It’s important for youth to have this story available to them whether or not they choose to read it.”
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens are at a much higher risk of committing suicide, she said.
“A prevention strategy is to give them positive messages, which you can find in this book,” she said.
from The Rochester Democrate And Chronicle

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