A school district in Utah is suspending its “equity book bundles” program after receiving backlash from parents when a third-grade teacher read a book about a transgender boy to young students without parental permission.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, a student of Horizon Elementary brought the book, “Call Me Max,” from home and asked the teacher to read it aloud.
The Amazon description of “Call Me Max” reads:
When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets her know the name he wants to be called by–a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents. Written with warmth and sensitivity by trans writer Kyle Lukoff, this book is a sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender.
Murray School District spokesman Doug Perry said that as the teacher read the book, students began to ask questions. Perry added that one question was specifically about puberty. He also said that the teacher had not read the book prior to the student bringing it in, and for the most part, deflected the questions.
However, some students mentioned the book and discussion to their families. Some families then called the district and were reportedly “angry that the book was shared with their kids without permission.”
The school district plans to review all of the literature included in the program, and Perry said the goal will be to examine them to see if any share the same topic as “Call Me Max” or might cause concern for other reasons.
The equity book program is reportedly focused more on “addressing race and racism and introducing students to more authors of color” than gender issues. Last week, Perry said that it was unfortunate timing, with the school suspending the program at the beginning of Black History Month. However, he said, “That is purely coincidental…We certainly honor and revere Black History Month as an important part of our education.”
No books will be removed from the program until the review is done, and Perry added that lots of the books will still be included and teachers and children will still have the option to read them.
He explained, “Anything in our libraries is fair game for teachers to use right now, including many books that are in the bundle program…In fact, the bundle program is by no means an exhaustive list of books on equity. Our libraries have many others.”
“[The teacher] just flat out made a mistake,” Perry noted. “That book is not appropriate at the grade level it was being shared.”
As can be seen on Amazon’s store page, the reading age for the book is 7-9 years old. The author, Kyle Lukoff, is a transgender writer and disagrees with Perry’s assessment. Lukoff told The Tribune, “I find in my experience that adults think that term unlocks a lot of confusion in children when it really doesn’t.” He recently read the story to a first grade class. The Tribune reports, “One girl asked him what ‘transgender’ meant and when he explained, ‘she just said, ‘OK,’ and moved on.’” Lukoff added, “It’s only a problem if you think that being transgender is itself wrong…And it’s not. That’s something the parent then has to work through.”
Perry said that he does not anticipate the equity books bundle program, or the Diversity Equity Council which worked on the book bundles, to be ended. For the time being, however, they are both suspended.