WARRENTON, Va. — A Virginia high school is once again considering a parent’s appeal to remove a book from the school’s library that depicts two boys kissing on its cover.
The book, “Two Boys Kissing” by New York Times bestselling author David Levithan, has previously survived a school committee review, but will now be subjected to a public hearing after one parent’s persistent efforts to have the book removed from the Fauquier County High School library.
“Two Boys Kissing” tells the story of two 17-year-old boys participating in in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record. The boys become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and gay hookup sites — all while the kissing (former) couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.
Local parent Jessica Wilson tells FHS Librarian Becca Isaac she is concerned about the content of the cover, specifically that it violates the school’s rules against public displays of affection.
“My first thought was that I was shocked,” Wilson told FHS’s student paper, The Falconer. “My second though was, ‘Who purchased this book and why?’ This book just kind of felt snuck in the by library.”
“I can’t imagine that there wasn’t another, more appropriate book they could have purchased that would have appealed to a wider audience.”
Isaac, a high school Librarian for 16 years, said all book purchases for the library follow the school’s policies, which state material should cover all “points of view on current and historical issues.” The policy also states materials should not be removed because of “partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”
Isaac said there are other books in the library which show straight couples in a kissing embrace, in addition to other books covers which, when looked at through Wilson’s eyes, could also be banned.
“We have books that have guns on the cover and we don’t allow guns in school. We have books with drugs on the cover, it’s not the same kind of issue there…” said Isaac. “I’ve never had a formal complaint about a book.”
Issac says this is the first time she’s seen a book go this far in the challenge process.
A school-based committee voted in February not to remove the book, but Wilson has since appealed this decision.
On April 23, the committee will interview the complainant and possibly others related to the decision to withdraw or retain the book, followed by a public hearing during which time interested citizens may speak to the review committee concerning the subject.
The committee will discuss its findings and is expected to render a decision immediately.
The ACLU of Virginia’s Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg said The Supreme Court has weighed in on issues like this before, and have sided with students’ First Amendment rights “to have access to a broad range of ideas.”
“While school officials have some discretion to decide what books to include in the library, they may not remove a book simply because of disagreement with the ideas in the book,” said Glenberg. ” A book may not be removed simply because it is about a gay relationship, if the same book would be allowed if it described a relationship between a boy and a girl.”
“Two Boys Kissing” was named to the 2013 National Book Award Longlist and is a 2014 Stonewall Honor Book.