Last summer, a school district in Oklahoma pulled thousands of graphic novels from library shelves after receiving complaints from an angry parent who found his teenager reading one of them.
Now, documents obtained by Motherboard through a public records request reveal the internal chaos that ensued after a parent challenged a school library book. Emails between school board members and the parent, juxtaposed with emails between district administrators over a four month period, give a detailed view of how clashes between educators and parents can result in the removal of hundreds or thousands of titles without meaningful checks or community input. They also show how faculty members and school officials who are already stretched thin struggle to deal with furious parents.
The documents show that the parent at the center of the challenge sent a series of emails calling administrators at Owasso Public School "perverts" and accusing the district of making pornographic material available to children.
"If you don't take a stand, then it might be because you're the sicko perverts that want to sexualize the children in this district," the parent wrote in a lengthy, particularly angry email.
Some emails obtained by Motherboard with subject lines like "Child porn in the schools (pictures)," "Child porn/child rape distributed by Owasso Public School District," "Child porn/child rape/softcore porn being distributed by OPS district," and "pornographic material being distributed to my child" were redacted by the district.
Others show school board members and superintendents dealing with the angry parent, talking to each other about the workload and psychological impacts of banning books en masse, and telling the parent that the graphic novel in question, Blankets by Craig Thompson, had been removed from circulation. The board member added that "In addition, all graphic novels are being pulled and reviewed at this time."