Beavercreek, Bellbrook schools review books after gender, sex content complaints

Beavercreek issue is over three fiction books; Bellbrook reviews biology textbook

The Beavercreek school district is allowing parents to limit their students’ access to certain fiction books, and Bellbrook school officials are reviewing a biology textbook after complaints made by parents over mentions of gender, sexuality, and similar themes.

Beavercreek has limited the use of three fiction titles after Beavercreek resident Sarah Murray filed challenges to the books in the school library: “Juliet Takes a Breath,” by Gabby Rivera; and two books by Ellen Hopkins: “Identical” and “Impulse.”

“Juliet Takes a Breath” is a coming-of-age story about a Latina college student from the Bronx, who realizes she is gay over the course of the book.

According to the complaint, the book contains “pornographic” elements, “characterizes all whites as racist,” and promotes “the complete depravity of the liberal agenda.” The book also mentions Communism.

“Identical” is described by Booklist as a “gritty and unflinching” story of identical twin girls who are sexually abused by their father, and the unhealthy ways in which they cope with the abuse. “Impulse” is about three teenagers, all of whom have attempted suicide, and their struggles to overcome what led them to attempt it.

The resident’s complaint says the books should be removed because they contain explicit descriptions of self-harm, drug use, and the ways in which the father abuses his daughters in the story.

According to the formal complaints, Murray was notified of the books by Make Schools Safe Again, a Christian organization “focused on the educational issues that affect the Biblical worldview of children.” The organization collects lists of “educationally unsuitable” books for parents to challenge in school libraries.

Parents may block the books from being checked out of the school library by their child, Beavercreek Superintendent Paul Otten said. Otten said the district sent a specific reply to Murray:

“The Reconsideration Committee’s recommendation is to limit the use of the challenged material. Per the American Library Association Guiding Principles, parents or guardians have the right to guide the reading, viewing, and listening of their children, but must give the same right to other parents/guardians. Therefore, it is recommended that parents have the ability to block this book from being checked out of the school library by their child.”

Bellbrook textbook issue

Additionally, Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools are reviewing the textbook used for an Advanced Placement Biology class, after parents complained about the book’s handling of gender and sexuality.

The two paragraphs of the 943-page textbook amount to seven sentences, under the header “Biological Sex, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation in Human Sexuality.” The paragraphs provide basic definitions of gender, sexuality, and associated terms with each. The rest of the chapter is devoted to discussion of reproduction in mammals, including humans.

The paragraphs should rather be presented in a psychology or sociology textbook “with “alternate viewpoints being presented and an emphasis on the topic being theory,” wrote Bellbrook resident Brittany Hirschfeld, adding that the topic was controversial, and that curriculum “should not attempt to indoctrinate students on controversial issues.”

Craig Reinhart, chair of the Science Department at Bellbrook High School, told the school board during their May 11 meeting that the disputed content is “never discussed, never part of course objectives, never assessed, and is not mentioned in the AP standards.”

“Out of all the AP Biology textbooks I reviewed, this is the most challenging of all the books and the most detailed when it comes to the content,” he said.

Reinhart pointed out the positive elements of the textbook during that meeting, adding that Bellbrook’s high-achieving Advanced Placement students need the best curriculum in order to provide them with proper challenge. Reinhart said that the cause for concern may be “a result of semantics rather than actual content found in the textbook.”

Based on feedback from a public review session held on March 14, school administration decided to “further review our options for the AP Biology book,” Superintendent Doug Cozad said.

The current book is called “Campbell’s Biology in Focus.” Two books, both Campbell editions, were initially considered for the AP course, Cozad said.

“We are digging into it to check on other possibilities and see if we can move forward with something in the very near future,” Cozad said via email. “In the end, it could even be one of these books.”

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