Cop Enters Classroom to Search for LGBTQ+ Book

Massachusetts police, school have both since apologized
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2023 1:30 AM CST
Massachusetts Police Enter Classroom to Search for LGBTQ+ Book
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / GlobalStock)

Earlier this month, a Massachusetts police officer entered a middle school classroom to search for a book about LGBTQ+ issues—an incident for which both the department and the school are now apologizing. A parent called the Great Barrington Police Department to report that they were concerned about an illustration in a book that an eighth-grade teacher at WEB Dubois Regional Middle School had made available to students. Police and school officials determined the illustration was from Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, which led to the plainclothes officer (who was reportedly wearing a bodycam that was recording, per the Berkshire Eagle) entering a classroom on December 8. The teacher told the officer there were no copies of the book in the room, and the officer left, CNN reports.

After the incident made headlines, the department issued a mea culpa, with the chief of police apologizing to "anyone who was negatively effected by our involvement." School officials also apologized and said the incident should have been handled differently. The police department says it had a duty to respond since police were contacted, but that the investigation has been dropped, the New York Post reports. The graphic novel, one of the books most challenged or banned recently, charts the coming-of-age exploration of gender identity and sexual orientation by Kobabe, who is nonbinary, and includes some sexually explicit text and illustrations. Per PEN, a Pennsylvania superintendent explained, after his school district voted to keep the book, "The illustrations of concern are just a piece of the larger mosaic that supports the tale and message of this memoir."

Kobabe has said in the past that anyone concerned about the book should "read the whole thing and judge for yourself, don't just go based on the one or two tiny clips you've seen on social media." "When I couldn't yet figure out who I was, it felt important to answer that question before I could start answering other questions about my life," Kobabe told the Des Moines Register last month. "I did not write it to arouse a reader. I did not write it to titillate a reader. I wrote it to educate and explain." The American Civil Liberties Union says it is not aware of any other incidents in the US in which police have searched a school for a book, and says it is very concerned about the entire incident, especially the fact that it was recorded on bodycam, the Eagle reports. The organization has requested the footage, and other documents related to the incident. (More Massachusetts stories.)

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