Books under review to be banned at ORR following complaints

Oct 18, 2022

Books relating to race and LGBTQ issues are under review to be banned from libraries at Old Rochester Regional High School and middle school following complaints, sparking controversy in the Tri-town. 

“In recent weeks there has been discussion in our school community regarding how books are selected for our school libraries,” said Superintendent Michael Nelson in an email statement. “The school district and our professional staff is steadfast in following our current policies regarding book selections and library oversight. Our main objective is to provide staff and students with a wide range of educational materials in a variety of formats, with diversity of appeal, allowing for the presentation of many different points of view.”

According to 17-year-old Alia Cusolito, a junior at ORR, the books are: "All Boys Aren't Blue" by George M. Johnson, "Beyond Magenta" by Susan Kuklin, "Flamer" by Mike Curato, "Gender Queer: A Memoir" by Maia Kobabe, "Lawn Boy" by Jonathan Evison, "Out of Darkness" by Ashley Hope Pérez,  "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison, and "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas.

Controversy has brewed in Tri-town Facebook pages where some commenters are calling the books “sexually explicit,” while others see the proposed ban as an attack on first amendment rights. 

I for one do not want my minor children exposed to such adult material,” wrote one commenter in the Marion Matters Facebook page. “Stop sexualizing children.”

According to the Old Rochester School District policy manual, the School Committee is responsible for deciding if books or other materials should be kept in school libraries.

A petition in opposition to the proposed ban will be read at the Old Rochester Regional School Committee meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in person in the media room at 133 Marion Road, and online through Zoom. According to Nelson, this topic is not on the agenda for the Oct. 19 School Committee meeting. 

Cusolito, who uses they/them pronouns and is the president of the high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance club, said they are “a little surprised” this is happening in the Tri-town.

“You don’t expect things to happen in certain places,” they said. “But there are people in our community that don’t want us here.”

For Cusolito, books like Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which they started reading since the proposed ban was announced, are important for young people in the LGBTQ community. “Reading [Gender Queer: A Memoir], I felt so represented in a very specific way that I’ve never seen before. It actually made me cry, which is really powerful for me,” said Cusolito. “This is why these books are important. I have never seen myself in a book in this way before.”