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Western Massachusetts District Attorney Was Disturbed By Reports of Gender Queer in Middle School — Initially

Upon hearing about oral sex illustrations in a graphic novel recommended by an eighth grade teacher to certain students, the district attorney for Berkshire County was disgusted.

“This book needs to be out [of] that school forever right now – I don’t care if it’s artistic – if it depicts graphic sexual illustrations it has no place for minors to view and observe – do we allow heterosexual illustrated sexual books in the library?  I do not think so,” district attorney Timothy Shugrue, a Democrat, wrote.

But the superintendent of schools wasn’t.

“Based on my research it is a graphic novel and memoir of a gender fluid person and while out of context individual cartoons may be provocative, in context they are part of a compelling story that shares con[t]ext, build[s] empathy, and may be a lifeline for a subset of students making sense of identity,” Berkshire Hills Regional School District superintendent Peter Dillon wrote.

The two email messages from December 2023 are quoted in a report issued by a law firm hired by the Berkshire Hills School Committee, which oversees the middle school in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington, where a complaint by a custodian launched a police investigation in December.

The police search on Friday, December 8, 2023 led to an uproar – not based on the content of the book, but instead on whether a police officer should have entered a school looking for it.

The school committee hired a law firm to investigate the incident. The report, written by Kevin Kinne, a partner in the Boston law firm Cohen, Kinne, Valicente, & Cook, is dated Friday, February 16, 2024.

The eighth grade English language arts teacher at W.E.B. DuBois Middle School, who has not been publicly named, identifies herself as “Mexican-American and “Queer,” according to the report. She is the adviser to the school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance. She graduated from nearby Bard College at Simon’s Rock and then worked at an independent bookstore before becoming a teacher at the middle school six years ago.

She was so traumatized by the investigation that she has not returned to work since, according to the report.

The investigation was spurred by the in-person report at the town’s police station of a school custodian who saw the 2019 book, Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, which New Boston Post described in detail in an article published in January 2024. The book is a graphic novel that illustrates in cartoon form scenes from the life of the author, including masturbation and oral sex. The author identifies as non-binary, meaning not identifying as exclusively either male or female.

The custodian provided a photograph of two pages from the book showing illustrations of oral sex to Great Barrington Police Officer Joseph O’Brien.

The custodian, who no longer works at the school, also made allegations that the teacher had a student sit in her lap and held meetings after school with certain students and told them not to tell their parents about them – allegations the report says the custodian made without seeing the purported incidents and without evidence that they occurred. The report quotes the principal of the school as dismissing those allegations, and it says that in interviews with more than a dozen staff members “all of them said that they have never seen the Teacher engage in any inappropriate conduct with students or otherwise.”

The report says the teacher bought Gender Queer with her own money and kept it in her classroom, recommending it to certain students. The school library doesn’t have the book and the school doesn’t use it in its ordinary curriculum, but the school librarian put the teacher’s copy of it on display for Banned Books Week during the fall of 2023, the report says.

When the police officer showed up at the school, he could not find the book in the classroom, and he asked the principal to provide it to him sometime in the future.

“Officer O’Brien explained that, based upon the limited information he had on the book in the form of the two pages that had been presented to him at the Police Station, it was important to see the whole book to determine whether the Book could be considered ‘obscene’ material that cannot be disseminated to minors,” the report issued by a law firm hired by the school district states.

Neither the superintendent of schools nor the principal of the school had ever heard of the book, the report states.

On Thursday, December 14, after a discussion between the district attorney and the superintendent, the district attorney decided the book was a matter for school officials to decide.

“It appears the school is aware, and they are taking the proper safeguards. It does not appear to be a criminal matter,” Shugrue wrote in an email message.


Gender Queer Incident Draws Sharp Comments At Western Massachusetts School Committee Meeting

Members of a western Massachusetts school committee got an earful this past week about a police search at a middle school for a graphic novel called Gender Queer.

On December 8, 2023, an anonymous complaint was made to Great Barrington police that a sexually explicit book had been shown to minors at W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School, a public school in the town. A plainclothes officer went to the school and was not able to find the book, which was later identified as Gender Queer.

The book, which is a memoir of the author’s struggles with gender identity, is a graphic novel that has verbal and cartoon depictions of urination, masturbation, and oral sex, among other things. NewBostonPost published a description of Gender Queer earlier this month.

Superintendent Peter Dillon, who allowed the police officer to come onto the premises at W.E.B. Du Bois Middle School and has apologized for doing so, reiterated his apology Thursday, January 11 at the beginning of a hybrid meeting of the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee, which oversees public schools in the towns of Great Barrington, Stockbridge, and West Stockbridge.

Dillon apologized for “letting the police into the school for a warrantless investigation” and said he “recognized this was likely a targeted, racist, homophobic attack on a colleague and teacher at the GSA and the LGBTQIA+ community and the actual book.”

“GSA” stands for “Gay-Straight Alliance,” in reference to a student organization that sponsors organizations at middle and high schools and universities.

“I hope that we can work together to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Dillon said.

Some people who spoke during public comment disagreed with Dillon’s assessment of his actions. Lisa Baumgart, who lives in Cheshire and has a son attending Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, praised Dillon for his initial actions.

“You did the right thing by allowing the police to attempt to confiscate material in the school that is harmful to minors,” Baumgart said.

She said the book is inappropriate for children.

“It is obvious the pictures in the book Gender Queer describe and show nudity and sexual conduct such as oral sex on page 168 and masturbation on page 62,” Baumgart said.

Baumgart quoted a character in the book saying “I can’t wait to get your co– in my mouth. I’m going to give you the blow job of your life.” The words are said by the person the main character, who is a woman, is dating at the time. This statement leads the main character to break up due to a misunderstanding.

Baumgart cited a definition in state law (Massachusetts General Laws, Section 31) of the term “Harmful to minors,” which states:  “matter is harmful to minors if it is obscene or, if taken as a whole, it (1) describes or represents nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement, so as to appeal predominantly to the prurient interest of minors; (2) is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for such minors; and (3) lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”

“Peter, your role is simple,” Baumgart said later. “Follow the rule of law. Do not be influenced by political ideology.”

“Keeping this book and others like it is a clear violation of the law,” Baumgart told the committee. “If we don’t take a stand against inappropriate material allowed in the school, we are abdicating our responsibility as administrators, teachers, parents, and community members. We are either protecting the innocence of children’s lives or we are complicit in their abuse.”

Otis resident Elizabeth Torsay-Wilson also criticized the book.

“The bottom line is a book with content like that, with sexual content like that, has no place in the middle school,” Torsay-Wilson stated, saying that people can be supportive of people who identify as homosexual or transgender without giving a “free pass” to a book like Gender Queer.

But most speakers denounced the police search.

Joe Roland, who has a son in middle school, said during public comment that he found Gender Queer helpful for students with gender identity questions and for himself.

“I read the book, and I found it compelling and informative, and now I understand why pronouns matter so much,” Roland said.

“If the presence of that book on the shelf in the classroom in this middle school eases the journey of one LGBTQIA+ student, it belongs on that shelf,” he said.

“Banning books is unacceptable on any level,” said Jim Goldstein from Stockbridge, who highlighted the central issue as “civil liberties.”

Goldstein pointed to other books that have been banned.

“Once we start going down this line, what’s pornographic, we’re going to start banning everything,” Goldstein continued.

“Anne Frank has been banned throughout this country” for depicting Frank’s “sexual urges,” he said. 

“We need to be very careful here that we are protecting the rights of the students to read books in the school,” Goldstein said.

Nyx Tucci, a current junior at Monument, praised the teacher at the center of the complaint for providing “helpful literature” that “made me realize that I was welcome and that I wasn’t a freak, and I wasn’t a horrible person for being who I am.”

“The existence of these books in classrooms is a net positive for children like me,” Tucci said. “To think that I went to a school that harbored someone who would complain about this to the police in a directed bigoted attack is horrifying.”

Many of those in attendance applauded when Tucci finished speaking.

A fifth-grade boy who is a student at the middle school and said he identifies as homosexual told the school committee he was on a school bus last week when one of the kids said something demeaning about homosexuals.

“One of them said, ‘I don’t go on TikTok, I’m not gay or something,’ ” the fifth-grader said.

He said he supports Gender Queer.

“I strongly feel that this book should not be banned,” the fifth-grader said.

A woman who described herself as “a queer parent of a queer kid” said the book deserves serious consideration.

“I’m kind of tired of statement making without actual real conversation,” said Deborah Minkov.

But the police investigation doesn’t, she said.

“I am deeply troubled and deeply pained to hear how this grossly mishandled incident provided an invitation to express even more hate,” she said. “In this sense, this was a very successful campaign against our kids and against our schools.”

One person who spoke argued against the claim that the book is pornographic, providing a definition of the word as material for the purpose of “sexual stimulation.”

“The presence of nudity of sexual acts does not necessarily make that media pornographic if the purpose of that media is for something other than sexual stimulation,” Bob Van Holtz of Stockbridge said. “Those of us who have read the book, did you sense anything in terms of pornography in that book?”

Many people in the audience answered “no,” including Dillon. Many attendees applauded.

Katie O’Neil, a public library director who lives in Richmond and has a ninth-grade son in the district, said that the central issue is about “intellectual freedom” and “protecting our students and communicating our values to our students and teaching them how to stand up for those values.”

O’Neil praised school committee members for their follow-up actions on the issue and offered her support.

The Policy Subcommittee of the School Committee has a meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, January 24, to discuss potential changes in policies in light of the December 8 police investigation, including the role of police in schools and the process of selecting books.

Story source: New Boston Post

Missing The Point:
What The Great Barrington Gender Queer Controversy Gets Wrong

Almost a month after it happened, the firestorm around an incident at a Great Barrington middle school is still raging.

Yet no one has asked the obvious question or made the obvious point.

On December 8, 2023, an anonymous tipster complained to police that a teacher at W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School had shown a sexually explicit book to students. An officer walked through the classrooms, searching for the book. He wasn’t able to find it.

Outrage ensued.

Students performed a walk-out. The police chief apologized. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts sent a complaint letter three days after the chief of police apologized. A group of parents formed a web site called “Berkshires Against Book Banning.” Presumably, a Boston Globe leftier-than-thou column is in the works.

A NewBostonPost staff member read through the book, Gender Queer: A Memoir, and published a description of it earlier this week. The book celebrates masturbation, oral sex, and frontal nudity. It is sometimes apathetic toward casual sexual experiences, and sometimes even encourages them. Ugly images accompany ugly thoughts.

This book is unfit for anyone, let alone children.

Now, the complaint against the search has been straightforward:  The police have no business investigating a place of education, teachers have a right to teach their pupils, book banning is wrong.

But let’s play cop. Child pornography is illegal. It’s also destructive. Showing children child pornography is not only a crime, it’s an outrage. The police got a report that is consistent with showing child pornography.  Of course police had to investigate.

As it happens, the book has no depictions of “a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” as federal law defines child pornography.

But more concerning than the legal aspect is the moral aspect. Here is the obvious question about the report made to police:  Was the claim true?

Was a sexually explicit book shown to children as young as 11?

Is that ever a good idea?

These questions aren’t even debated. In most public discourse on this matter, the virtue of a book like Gender Queer is simply assumed.

At the center of this is a broader discussion on what books are appropriate for children. As a liberal columnist put it earlier this year regarding this very book:  “Once you’re haggling over whether an illustrated sex act is dictionary-definition pornographic, surely you’ve already ceded the point of whether it’s appropriate for children.” 

Do you find sense in that? Ah! You’re a book burner.

“Treating books as dangerous has a chilling effect and is a threat to learning, growing, and accessing a wide range of information, voices, and experiences,” the Berkshires Against Book Banning web site says.

As if a book has inherent value, by virtue of having words on a page.

Yet is that true?

How about a faux-science book that claims black people are less mentally capable than white people? How about hard-core pornography? How about the King James Bible?

Any sensible person can spot the pattern. Supporters of books like Gender Queer argue relativism until it’s your turn. Diversity is our strength until it’s someone who doesn’t think like them. Book banning is bad unless it’s the books they disagree with. They claim no standard, but secretly, they hold one behind their back, ready to run you through with it the moment you offer yours.

The discussion is always driven by values, even as they put forward none. So what are their values?

Lest it be thought that this is a one-off incident, over the last few years, NewBostonPost has covered example after example of transgender ideology being imposed on children by public libraries and schools: Arlington, Boston, Uxbridge, Auburn, Milton, Hadley, Somerville, Westford, Plymouth, Franklin, Old Rochester, Dover, Chelmsford, Hanover, Mansfield. The list is endless.

They do it in schools, injecting it into curriculums. They do it through drag queen story hours. They do it at every age.

So when the ACLU praises a book like Gender Queer for its “literary value,” when Maura Healey steps off her throne to defend it, and when the institutional left swings into motion for the book’s honor, no one should be surprised.

To be clear, a book has value because of what it says. Or in this case, it does not have value because of what it shows.

Given the horrific content of Gender Queer, a troubling thought is that these advocates haven’t read their own book.

A more troubling thought is that they have.

And that they approve.


'The Words You Spoke Are Disturbing': Kennedy Stuns As He Reads Explicit Kids' Books During Hearing
Sen. John Kennedy showed his Democratic colleagues exactly what they’re defending in public schools and libraries when he read sexually graphic excerpts from some of the “banned books” at the center of this culture war battle.
"What are you asking us to do? Are you suggesting that only librarians should decide whether the two books that I just referenced should be available to kids? Is that what you’re saying,” the Republican asked Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.

More from [P]

Breaking: Book mysteriously disappears from the school, yet Police Chief caves!

Western Massachusetts Police Chief Apologizes For School Search For Explicit Book ‘Gender Queer’

December 24, 2023

When Great Barrington police received a call earlier this month that a middle school teacher had handed students a book depicting animated sex acts, a plainclothes officer visited the school. The officer could not locate the book.

Now, the department is apologizing for sending anyone at all.

"As the Chief of Police for the Great Barrington Police Department, I apologize to anyone who was negatively effected [sic] by our involvement at the W.E.B. Dubois Middle School on December 8, 2023," Chief Paul Storti said in a statement to CNN on Thursday, December 21.

The incident took place on Friday, December 8 at W.E.B. Dubois Middle School for grades 5 through 8. Children grades 5-8 are typically in the age range of 10 to 14.

The book in question, Gender Queer:  A Memoir, tells the story of the author’s journey to identifying as transgender. The book portrays several characters, including the author, performing various sex acts and discusses masturbation, menstruation, and oral sex, among other things.

The book is listed as being for readers 18 and older on Amazon.


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