February 2023 Church & State Magazine - February 2023

Pa. Teacher Subjected To Criminal Investigation Over Possession Of Book

 

A public junior high school English teacher in Hollidaysburg, Pa., was subjected to a criminal investigation after complaints were raised that she had an LGBTQ-themed book in her classroom.

The teacher, Nicole Stouffer, brought a copy of the book Gender Queer into her classroom in November. While it’s unclear why Stouffer had done so, students were not reading it, nor was it part of the curriculum.

Nevertheless, when school officials learned that the book was in the school, they ordered Stouffer to remove it and never bring it back. The Hollidaysburg Police Department subsequently investigated the matter and interviewed several students and school district personnel in the process, reported WTAJ, a local television station.

Dangerous book: ‘Gender Queer’ sparks controversy in Pa.

The Blair County District Attorney’s Office also launched an investigation and released a statement indicating that it had found no evidence that laws were broken. 

“In light of the Hollidaysburg School District’s recent correspondence to parents, the Blair County District Attorney’s Office believes it necessary to provide an update on the criminal investigation into the Hollidaysburg teacher who brought a controversial graphic novel into her junior high classroom,” read the statement. “Hollidaysburg Police conducted multiple individual interviews of both students and school district personnel. At this juncture, none of the witnesses (including students) interviewed by law enforcement have disclosed first-hand observations that would rise to criminal conduct under Pennsylvania law.”

Robert Gildea, superintendent of the Hollidaysburg Area School District, told parents in a message that Stouffer had returned to the classroom on Jan. 3 and added, “No further comment will be made regarding any corrective action that may or may not have been taken against the teacher as it is an internal personnel matter.”

Gildea had earlier told parents that Gender Queer is “disturbing and not appropriate for children of any age.”

Gender Queer, a 2019 graphic novel by Maia Kobabe, has won several awards but is also one of the most censored books in America. The book’s publisher, Simon and Schuster, notes that Kobabe wrote it to explain to “family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual” and adds, “Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity — what it means and how to think about it — for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.”

Gender Queer is by no means the only LGBTQ-themed book under attack. The Washington Post reported in December about a nationwide furor over Jonathan Evison’s novel Lawn Boy sparked by parents who believe that the book describes an instance of sex between an adult and a 10-year-old boy. No such passage appears in the book. 

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