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If The BOE Votes To Ban, Vote Them Out



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To the Editor:

The people of Newtown have spoken — eloquently, articulately, and with force. It was crystal clear at the May 2 meeting of the Newtown Board of Education (BOE) that Newtown residents overwhelmingly do not support the banning of the books Blankets and Flamer from the Newtown High School library, nor do they support book banning in general.

Thank you to those who spoke up in support of free speech and the First Amendment, and thank you especially to the young people for their bravery and conviction.

The problem, of course, is the Newtown BOE and the 4/3 Republican majority. It became clear at this meeting that this conservative BOE may very likely vote on May 16 to ban these books despite the unequivocal decision of the Special Review Committee to keep these two books on the shelves of the school library. (The Special Review Committee is composed of educational professionals who carefully reviewed the two books in accordance with the district’s thorough, multi-step process.)

Anyone who follows the news knows that this is not about the books, but about politics and a much broader agenda.

I hope of course that I am incorrect about the probable vote. But it is possible that two exceptional, award-winning, critically acclaimed books that have been vetted and approved by our very own team of professionals will be banned from the Newtown High School library. And if this happens, it will not go unnoticed by the press — local and national.

I can see Newtown school ratings plummeting, and subsequently possibly even real estate values.

But the more important cost of this will be to our high schoolers and their access to these two stellar pieces of literature that have both so successfully painted sympathetic, believable characters with whom teens can empathize and identify as they grapple with the not-easy process of growing up. As a critical reader, a mother, and a children’s book editor for many years, I know good literature when I read it — and Flamer and Blankets pass the test with flying colors.

These books are rare gems, and it’s offensive to see them being used as pawns for ulterior political motives. It would be a travesty if the teenagers of Newtown were no longer afforded easy access to them.

There is only one solution, and it is simple. Since the politics are clear, get out to vote in November. Three terms on the BOE are up at the end of this year: Deborra Zukowski (R), Alison Plante (D), and John Vouros (D). If you want to stop this national book banning crusade here in Newtown (and clearly a majority of us do), vote out the Republicans, keep the Democrats, and vote in more Democrats.


Sue Kassirer

Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. qstorm says:

    ‘stellar pieces of literature’? What has this country come to?

  2. wdr says:

    Apparently the author above is unaware of the Historic Election results of 2021, when Republican’s took all the legal majorities on every local Town Board in Newtown. If pressed for an answer regarding the BOE, I would assume while under the Dem controlled tenure the BOE had allowed the Newtown School District test scores to slip to a mediocre and unacceptable level. Before the Dem majority, the Newtown School District was proudly recognized as a Blue Ribbon School District in Connecticut. Don Ramsey (R), the Republican candidate, was given the highest number of votes in the history of Newtown. For those readers unaware, this protest has little to do with the spin and argument the opposition is framing as anti LGTBQ, anti-gay or simply “Book Banning”. The principle complaint being lodged is a serious concern, to whether this material being presented in these particular books is of an adult nature, and subsequently should have an age appropriate rating. Most movies require a rating when released in this country, with a X for adults only. In my opinion when a book is graphically (yes graphically) portraying images and text of 2 teen boys masturbating into a bottle, with the following statement, whoever does not finish must drink the “cum”, the theme falls into a adult content. This is subjective, and I do realize that many parents (or so they want us to believe) do approve of these so called “rare gems” and “ stellar literature “, as the above author proudly proclaims. What I find concerning and perhaps even hypocritical, nobody from this group is mentioning the book “Fun House”, which was removed from Newtown Schools shelves 2 weeks earlier by the School Librarians, the very same champions of this protest. I am all for a spirted debate and conversation, as it is the foundation of our Democracy, however when threats and bullying come into the picture, all bets off. A local activist group appear to be the main drivers behind this protest, who also proudly refer to themselves as “troublemakers”. No surprise they have firmly inserted themselves and their political agenda into this conversation, as well as disrupted the entire tenure of this current BOE. Let’s get realistic, this is not about 2 books on the shelves, but rather a much larger picture. My opinion, next year we will be arguing if these books belong on elementary school shelves if this subject is not mediated at this point.

    Hopefully in the near future this fractured town will come together. Math, Literature, Science and the Arts are the foundation of life. Our children are our ambassadors of the future. Childhood is a once in lifetime experience … Let our children be children. There is plenty of time as adults for them to be exposed to all of this and much more.
    (these comments are my own and not as a member of the Legislative Council, of which I sit)

    1. suzannem says:

      Graphic novels speak to many of today’s kids; especially pre-teens. They have provided kids who struggle with lengthy text a window into the world of stories. Context is everything and to see passages lifted from their context as an argument for removing a book from a school library is frankly, chilling.

      The books in question are precisely the kind of books that speak to kids who are dealing with complex and sometimes troubling thoughts that they may not understand and they often will not share with adults; often these are kids who have experienced trauma. Discovering them on their own or thorough a wise educator can offer a salve that parents often cannot. At that age, my kids taught me what spoke to them – not the other way around.

  3. tim06470 says:

    Demanding the restriction of access to certain books because of personal objection to their content is a clear example of “book banning”. The small group of complainants against these books did not read the books prior to sending their challenges and many copied the language on their complaints from the same source. They are working from a playbook created by the anti-LGBTQ group “Moms for Liberty” out of Florida. Of the books being challenged in this current national campaign, most are LGBTQ-related titles.

    The image you describe is simply not in Flamer. It’s just not there. The text was that of a bully harrassing the main character. It was not offered to be salacious.

    As for the prior removal of Fun Home, that was done at the discretion of the educated professionals in the library. This is how the system is supposed to work. The same professionals have determined that Flamer and Blankets are perfectly appropriate for any Newtown High students who wish to seek out these books.

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