Fairfield discusses restricting access to teen graphic novels

FAIRFIELD — Library officials are considering restricting access to a graphic novel, which became the subject of intense debate on Monday night.

“Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human” is a book targeted towards teens with the goal of teaching them about their bodies, sex, relationships, consent and more. The graphic novel is just that — graphic — which caused some parents to say there should be a special procedure put in place to keep young people from accessing it without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

People packed the room and lined the walls of a Library Board of Trustees meeting where the book was being discussed. Dozens more watched online as people were invited to share their perspective on the book.

Andrew Minea, the chair of the board, said the point of the meeting is for the board to hear the perspectives of residents “in order for us to deliberate a solution.”

Karen McCormack, a District 2 Representative Town Meeting member, said she was the one who requested the book be brought up for discussion. She said most people should agree that children should not be allowed to consume any type of media without their parents’ consent.

“I think the parents in this town have a right to know what their children are consuming,” she said.

The discussion comes amid National Banned Book Week, which runs Sept. 18 to 24 this year.

McCormack said she is not advocating for the book to be banned, but for it to be put under some kind of circulatory control so that parents’ consent can be determined prior to allowing a child to access it. She said the book is pornographic in nature, and even if children can access porn on the Internet, as many opposed to McCormack’s sentiment pointed out, it does not mean it should be taxpayer funded.

Before the meeting, Town Librarian Scott Jarzombek said there is only one copy of “Let’s Talk About It” in the main branch of Fairfield’s library, and noted that library staff added the book following the library’s policy. He said it has only been checked out once since it was added in March 2021.

Another resident who was opposed to the book being in the teen section of the library was Sarah McIntosh, who said she viewed parts of the book online and found it “completely inappropriate” for school-age children based on the sexual content.

Resident Kelly Solkal said moving the book out of the teen section of the library was censorship, adding it was not about protecting teens, but about denying information. She said she bought the book and was impressed with it, noting it included topics on consent, communications about sex between partners and aspects of genitalia.

Solkal said she does not find having those types of discussions with her teenage children hard, but they find it hard to talk about those topics with her. That is where the book comes in, she said.

Several high school students spoke during public comment — all of whom said the book should be left available as is. Caroline Shaw, a junior at Ludlowe High School, said the book uses the form of a graphic novel to appeal to an audience that may not have the ability to reach out.

“I would remind you that real life cannot be censored,” she said. “The objective of this potential banning is supposed to be in the best interest of us, the kids. But, if we chose to ban books that show us what life can look like, shielding children from how we can go about living a further educated and safer life for ourselves, we have officially eliminated a way to learn and seek help as needed.”

Other students said teenagers have access to much worse content on the Internet, and that the book covers topics people talk about in school already.

Melissa Longo, a District 1 RTM member, said the library has a duty not to expose children to the content of the book.

“This is not about banning anything,” she said. “This is about what children are being exposed to.”

Longo said it is disturbing that people would be okay with the book being in a section for young people, adding the book is disgusting. She said parents can get the book if they want to use it to talk to their children about those topics, but it should be in a more appropriate section of the library.

Laura Karson, a District 4 RTM member, said people worried about moving the book to a different section are not taking into account that they could just go over to that section to access the book. She said people deciding certain books offend them or are not appropriate for children opens the flood gates to control access to other titles.

“This is the beginning of what book banning is,” she said.

The Board of Trustees will discuss what to do with the book at its next meeting in a few weeks.

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