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Virginia school system returns books it removed after outcry

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia school system said Tuesday it is putting two books back on library shelves, two months after they were removed for formal review following complaints that they contained obscene sexual material.

Committees including administrators, librarians, parents and students reviewed both “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer” and determined both were appropriate for high school readers, County Public Schools said. Fairfax in a press release.

“Both reviewers concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized young people who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journeys,” according to the press release.

The committees unanimously recommended that the books remain available, and a senior administrator made the final decision to reinstate them, the district said.

“Gender Queer,” an illustrated memoir by Maia Kobabe, contains explicit illustrations of oral sex and masturbation. Jonathan Evison’s novel “Lawn Boy” contains graphic depictions of sexual activity. Both books were past winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which annually recognize “ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 to 18.”

Concern over the books surfaced in September after Stacy Langton, a parent in the Fairfax County school system, questioned the school board at a town hall meeting about the availability of books in high school libraries. As she was quoting explicit passages from a book, a school board member interrupted her and berated her for using explicit language.

The day after the meeting, the school system said it would remove the books for a detailed review.

Parental choice in education was a major issue in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, and the ‘gender queer’ controversy has since surfaced in a handful of states where Republican governors are vying for re-election. ‘next year.

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