May 22, 2013

Illinois parents protest book about two dads for kindergartners


Kristy Kennedy reported for the Chicago Tribune yesterday that a group of parents in the Indian Prairie School District (in the Chicago suburbs) have taken up arms over a menace facing their children—a book that depicts a family with two dads. The book, which Kennedy doesn’t identify, is one of several chosen by the school district to “supplement curriculum in kindergarten through middle school.”

While the focus of this handful of malcontents is the children’s book about same-sex parents, they’re apparently displeased with a slew of books on the list, complaining that “the materials overall focused too much on diversity and not enough on unity.” So not only are they opposed to diversity (opposed! to diversity!), but they’re using “unity” as their euphemism for intolerance, which would be kind of outrageous if it weren’t so transparent. Perhaps driving this point home, Estrella Ibay complained about the book in question, saying, “This will give the impression to our young children that homosexuality is a normal behavior.”

Members of the school board defended the purchase of the books on the supplemental list, albeit in a way that seemed more cautiously diplomatic than anything else. Chief Academic Officer Kathy Duncan told the Tribune, “Of course at any moment in time, to any person, any one of those books could be controversial;” and board member Mark Rising said, “I may not be in favor of some of the controversial subjects; however, we are a public school district. As long as there is sufficient professional development around some of these subjects, I think it is good. What I’m hoping is that this will spark conversations at home.”

Of course it’s helpful to open up a dialogue about subjects like homosexuality and various family configurations, but the word “controversial” is used just a few too many times in Kennedy’s article to describe books like the one about two gay dads. It makes the issue seem like a legitimate topic of debate and gives credence to the protesters’ argument, and the board’s response is frustratingly neutral. If they’re going to stand behind the books, the much more satisfying response would have been, “We refuse to engage with parents who are acting like homophobic jerks,” though bringing the unnamed book into the curriculum is certainly a promising first step.


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.