Prayer Vigil Rebukes Controversial Books in Walla Walla Schools | Education

Calling for the removal of books that critics say are political, sexually explicit and use excessive foul language, around 50 people gathered for a prayer vigil outside the Walla Walla School District office just before the regular council meeting. school, held virtually via Zoom, Tuesday, January 18.

The vigil was co-hosted by Cathy Rasley and Sarah Herrera. Rasley has grandchildren in the public school district and co-owns Hot Mama’s Espresso with her daughter and County Commissioner Jenny Mayberry. Herrera, an administrative assistant at Liberty Christian School, has two children in the public school district.

“It’s because of what’s going on in the school district with different books and the masks and all kinds of things,” Rasley said of the vigil in an interview with UB.

“It’s just come to a head. We try to pray for our schools and the students who go there.

Rasley and Herrera have posted several videos on social media and spoken at numerous school board meetings criticizing decisions such as mask and vaccination requirements in the district.

Herrera told UB that few topics they have raised have generated as much interest as the four books they have asked to be removed from library shelves.

These disputed books include the graphic novel ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’, by Maia Kobabe, and the novels ‘The Bluest Eye’, by Toni Morrison, ‘The Hate U Give’, by Angie Thomas, and ‘All Boys Aren’. t Bleu,” by George Johnson. While “The Bluest Eye” was published in 1970, the other three books were published between 2017 and 2020.

Previous attempts to have the school district remove the books failed, Rasley said in video posted on social media.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir,” was the subject of national controversy and was the first to catch Rasley’s attention, she said, due to an illustrated but blurry scene that depicts the oral sex between two teenagers.

“As a parent, if I had seen my kids with this book, I would have taken it off the shelf and probably burned it, because I don’t want my kids to see this,” Rasley said.

In a December 2021 interview with NBC News, author Kobabe, who identifies as non-binary, defended his book, saying that while the book’s graphic images may not be appropriate for school-aged children, it does contain candid conversations about sexuality and gender nonconformity.

“It’s very difficult to hear people say, ‘This book is not appropriate for young people’ when it’s like I’m a young person for whom this book would not only be appropriate, but so, so necessary,” Kobabe told NBC News. .

“Not all boys are blue” has faced similar criticism from prayer vigil organizers. Rasley described a sexually explicit phrase about gay teenagers engaging in oral sex.

Residents gather outside the Walla Walla School District office for a prayer rally ahead of the school board meeting on Tuesday, January 18, 2022.

In an interview with time, author Johnson argued that by the time teenage readers first encounter her book, they are likely to be well aware of sex, and that her novel contains sex education themes of consent and sexual abuse.

“So they’re leaving out very, very important context, intentionally of course, to try to say my book is pornographic,” Johnson told Time in a November 2021 interview.

Morrison’s novel “The Bluest Eye”, deals with themes of incest and rape, which Rasley said were inappropriate for children. “The Hate U Give” contains “90 F-words and F the police,” inappropriate language for teenagers, she said.

“I understand there are bad apples sometimes,” Rasley said. “But there are a lot of students whose moms or dads are in the police department. So why do they need to hear this bullshit all the time? »

Herrera, who has opposed the teaching of what she calls “critical race theory” in area schools, also criticized what she called the “very political and very diary” whose themes the book describes.

Tuesday’s prayer vigil outside the district office was just the latest in a series of protest actions taken by Herrera, Rasley and others. The disputed books, which have all been the subject of a wave of censorship across the country, came to prominence locally after the couple posted a video on social media claiming that ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’ had was taken out of high school. library.

At the time, this book had not yet entered circulation in libraries, but since, wrote Christy Krutulis, executive director of teaching and learning at the school district. All four books are currently available at district libraries, but none are required reading or otherwise assigned by district teachers, Krutulis said.

At a school board meeting in December, Rasley and Herrera themselves came under fire, Rasley said, after students spoke out against what they believed to be censorship of books having to do with the LGBTQ community. .

However, Rasley argued, their review of two books involving gay sex and one dealing with racism had nothing to do with race or sexual preference, but instead was based on the sexually explicit nature of the books.

“We never mentioned the LGBTQ community, never mentioned race or anything,” Rasley said. “There must be other books they can put in there other than these disgusting sexually explicit things in these books.”

Rasley said she didn’t know if there were any other sexually explicit books in district school libraries.

School Board Meeting Prayer Vigil

Residents gather outside the Walla Walla School District office for a prayer rally ahead of the school board meeting on Tuesday, January 18, 2022.

Although the district allows parents to proactively contact schools and ask that their children not be allowed to view certain books, Herrera argued that she and other parents don’t have the time or ability. to browse and rate each book.

“For me, that’s not a solution,” Herrera said. “Pornography will never be acceptable in a school setting. It is not educational.”

In a statement, administrators of Walla Walla Public Schools wrote that parents can now access an online portal to monitor in real time the books their children are borrowing from the library, and added that they follow best practices. when approving disputed books.

“The policy and procedures implemented by WWPS when books in school libraries are disputed are the best practices recommended by the Washington State School Principals’ Association, in conjunction with national school library associations and national,” Krutulis wrote.

“This same process is widely implemented by most districts in our state and has been used locally in the approval of these four books for age-appropriate WWPS libraries.”

The school board received a written request on Monday, Jan. 17, to appeal the four books that the district library’s document review board had recently reviewed and approved to remain in circulation. The board is reviewing the matter under pre-existing procedures, Krutulis said.

Colin L. Johnson