By Ken Sain
Chandler parent Charlotte Lawrence said her 11-year-old son handed her a book he found at his school library and said, ‘Mom, I don’t know if this is appropriate for me.’
“So I took the book, read it myself, and then told my son not to read it,” Lawrence said.
The book in question is “George,” by Alex Gino. It’s the story of a fourth-grader who sees herself as a girl while the rest of the world sees her as a boy named George.
Lawrence said she met with Carlson Elementary School Principal Andy Morgan and he told her that the book should not have been in their library.
During the Sept. 14 Chandler Unified School District Governing Board meeting, Lawrence read some of passages that she found inappropriate for children her son’s age.
“Page 47,” she began. “George read on the internet that he could take girl hormones to change his body and get surgeries if he wanted to. It’s called transitioning. He could even start before turning 18 by taking pills called androgen blockers.”
She went on to describe a scene where George and his best friend were dressing in girls’ clothes and the best friend gave him some girls’ undies to wear.
Lawrence read a half dozen passages from the book that she found inappropriate.
“If I were to hand this book to a child on the street, I’d be arrested,” Lawrence said. “So this should not be in our schools. Parents in this community do not want this.”
Superintendent Frank Narducci said an investigation is underway.
“We have already been on that and have been addressing that as well,” Narducci said to a question about the book from board member Jason Olive. “Our staff is on top of it.”
In another section of the book Lawrence read, the lead character’s brother asks if he will go all the way and have the surgery to become a girl.
Lawrence was not the only speaker to object to “George.”
“I’m just going to piggyback on Charlotte’s points about the book that her son has discovered,” said Sean Smith. “I am really concerned about the direction of what is being taught in some of the schools.
“I am anxious when I drop my daughter off at school. I am continuously asking her if she feels safe, if she’s being taught anything that is inappropriate. That is not what I should be worried about when I drop my daughter off at school every day.”
Lawrence said she is happy with how the district has handled the book since she complained.
“Obviously, the district is reviewing the book,” she said. “But it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The principal did admit that it should not have been in the library.”
Andi Young, who is co-chair of the Arizona Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), said studies show it is better overall for students if books like “George” are included in libraries.
“About 80% of transgender students experience harassment and bullying in school,” Young said. “Being able to see themselves in a positive way, reflected back at them, is really important.”
Young said it’s not only important for transgender youth, but also helps the rest of the student body become more accepting and lessens the hostility that trans youth experience.
As for the age, if this is something sixth-graders should be reading, Young said, yes.
“I’m a parent of a transgender youth, and I’ve been involved with many trans groups,” she said. “We see kids who come out as early as they can talk. Other kids, they don’t come out until much older, and that’s usually because of the hostility they experience.”
As of Jan. 1, school districts will be required by a new state law to provide parents greater access to their children’s school libraries and provide them on demand with a list of books their children take out.
Districts also will be required to hold a 60-day review period for any new additions to school libraries and media centers and give parents a seven-day advance notice when that review period begins.