To Whom it May Concern:
Earlier this 2022 school year, I became aware of a reading assignment, The 57 Bus, in my daughter's 10th grade English class that made HER uncomfortable. Upon further research, I found the book's content to be very disturbing; it is profuse with irresponsible, graphic, profane and explicit sexual content. There are 3 references (one VERY explicit exchange from a male to a male - "let me suck your prick") to homosexual oral sex. The word Fu** is used 13 times. Also, the words nig***, sh**, bi***, bullsh**, as*, da**, oh my God, and pussy) are all used, sometimes, severally. If this were a movie it would be labeled NC-17 and not suitable for children. However, this is approved classroom curriculum in our school district! Why are we exposing our students to this?
Several controversial themes (teenage abortion, sexual orientation, transgender issues, underage drinking and posting to social media, self-mutilation, etc) are presented, some very matter-of-factly, complete with definitions, some not even recognized by Webster's Dictionary. Medical professionals are marginalized and dismissed and the main character begins transitioning as a child/teenager. Feeling uncomfortable in one's own body as a child/teenager, which is perfectly normal, is suggested as not being normal and even as meaning one was born in the wrong body. The book seeks to overturn the idea there are only two genders. It even instructs young readers, all this "might feel awkward at first, but you'll get used to it."
The medical community, science and adults do not agree, nor have the answers backed by long-term medical studies to complex gender identity issues. Why would we be pushing and asking our children/students to do so? My child was sent home with this book to read and internalize all of this controversial subject matter, on her own, and then report back to the class. As the parent, I was never made aware that such a graphic, controversial and sexual book was being assigned to my child, nor given a permission or opt-out form.
I do believe there is a place to discuss controversial issues in the classroom. I am not for censoring or banning books! However, there are so many resources available, that it is absolutely unacceptable to lower our standards and approve curriculum that exposes our students to pornographic material in the name of some perceived "educational merit" or "value." Recent meta-analyses that sum up studies on this issue conclude that "exposure to sexual material increases adolescents' risk of early sexual initiation and risky sexual behavior" (Smith et al., 2016; Coyne et al., 2019).
I find it ironic that The 57 Bus states, "sexually explicit prints" are not allowed in juvenile detention, yet this book is readily available on our district's approved reading list - and is, currently, the assigned reading in my child's classroom. It's also ironic that I am not allowed to use the very language or vulgar and profane terms in public comments at school board meetings, found in this book. A twisted policy requires a parent to come into the school and sign an opt-out form to prevent a child from checking out sexually explicit/controversial materials in the library. Shouldn't it be the other way around? If a child wants to check out pornographic books at school, they should need an adult's signed permission.
Another thing that has felt equally disturbing is the way the teacher responded to my child. If, on the one hand, we are trying to teach tolerance and acceptance of all feelings and opinions (from the book - if a boy comes to school with makeup and a dress and says he believes he is a girl, we are supposed to accept and validate his feelings) then, when my daughter confides in her teacher that she feels uncomfortable and wants an alternate assignment, there should be absolutely NO pushback. However, the teacher responded, "I don't understand what's wrong with this book, why so many of you don't want to read it?!" Translation to my child was: "What's wrong with you?" (SEVERAL classmates asked for an alternate book. Isn't that a clue for the responsible adults?)
I've been appalled at the silence and nonchalant attitude of educators regarding inappropriate materials in our classrooms and libraries. However, I have spoken with Chad Auer, State Superintendent's Chief of Staff, Superintendent-Elect, Megan Degenfelder, Representative Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, and Senators Lynn-Hutchings and Affie Ellis and have been encouraged to keep raising my voice on this issue and that I am not alone!
Children are so impressionable and our most vulnerable in society and need to be protected and spoken for; we, as morally responsible adults need to intervene!
I'm calling upon teachers, principals, school board members and administrators to set aside selfish interest, political divides, and to stop feigning neutrality and stand with parents and students in maintaining and protecting the standards that strengthen our homes and families! PARENTS ARE THE ULTIMATE VOICE AND AUTHORITY FOR THEIR CHILDREN! I'm calling on parents to stand up and speak out. Your voice matters! Talk to other parents, teachers, administrators, and appeal to school board members. Make phone calls, send emails, send texts, meet in person or make public comments and pleas. These conversations are absolutely critical. PARENTS ARE THE ULTIMATE VOICE AND AUTHORITY FOR THEIR CHILDREN!