UNION — Members of the community and the board addressed concerns about two books in the Medomak Valley High School library at the Regional School Unit 40 Board of Directors meeting Thursday, May 5.

Superintendent Steve Nolan said the books were already reviewed according to district policy, and they remain part of the school library.

Some board members spoke in support of the district’s decision regarding the books.

Several community members and one board member spoke against the decision, calling the books pornographic.

“Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe were both challenged in October.

During the Superintendent Report at the Thursday meeting, Nolan said the books had once again been brought to the attention of the board.

Nolan said “Lawn Boy” is an Alex Award winning book. Medomak Valley High School has one copy in the library, and it has been checked out one time.

“Gender Queer” has also won the Alex Award, Nolan said, as well as the Stonewall Book Award. There are two copies of this book in the high school library, and they have been checked out a total of five times as of that day.

Nolan explained these books were carefully selected as part of the district policy requiring a variety of material, and were also reviewed at the time of purchase.

“Both of these books are part of our library collection,” Nolan said. “They are not required reading for students.”

He added students, parents and guardians can inspect any library material, and so far no parents have requested to review either of these books.

Nolan said district procedure was followed in October to review the books, and the outcome was both remained in the high school library.

“By now it’s pretty well established that book banning is a national issue,” Nolan said, and these books were at the top of the list of books being challenged.

Nolan said he thinks the continued discussion around banning books is a distraction from the important work of educating students.

Board member Jeanette Wheeler suggested removing the books from the library would remove the distraction, and added the books were “definitely pornographic.”

“I don’t agree with you on that,” Nolan commented, and added it was not the books themselves that were the distraction, but the discussion about banning them.

Board member Erik Amundsen said while he understood the books were controversial, the goal of the board of directors was to educate children to deal with the world they are growing up in. Amundsen also agreed with Nolan these issues were distractions from the education of students.

Board member Emily Trask-Eaton said the images in these books may make people uncomfortable, but they can help students express what their lives are like.

“Imagine what it’s like to be one of these students who doesn’t meet the norm,” Trask-Eaton said.

Student representative Owen Webber also spoke about the issue. Webber said he had sent a survey to his fellow students, and 75% of all responses were against book banning and censorship.

Webber said responses to his survey also indicated his peers wanted to learn about history and about LGBTQ issues.

Some students live in a home where their identity is rejected, Webber pointed out. “The books that are in our libraries can teach these students they are not freaks,” he said. “The books in our libraries can save a life.”

If having “Gender Queer” in the Medomak High School library saves just one life, then it is worth having in the library, he added.

“This is not Fahrenheit 451. This is real life,” Webber said. He closed by saying the practice of book banning comes with consequences, and these threats to literature must be resisted.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several community members spoke out against the books continuing to be in the high school library.

Natasha Wallace said the inclusion and transgender issues were not at the heart of their issues with the book, instead it was the images and the words in the book. “This is pornographic,” she said.

Wallace questioned if material would be allowed in the library that depicted a man and woman speaking and acting in the same way.

Steve Karp of Waldoboro said he brought the books to the board’s attention a few weeks ago. Karp said the books contained pornographic material, and supplying pornography to minors is the definition of grooming.

Karp said he was once again requesting the board return these books to the publisher and ask for a refund. “It breaks my heart to see this,” he added.

Karp also commented he felt society has come to this point through a lack of prayer.

Bill Moody of Waldoboro said while the district wants to support inclusion, he wondered if that included the devil. “Is that who we’re working for?” Moody asked.

“Jesus and I and many people here; we love gays, lesbians, transgenders, pedophiles, murderers, rapists. But we don’t condone their activity because it’s harmful to society,” he said.

Moody closed by asking if the board was supporting ideas that were beneficial or harmful to society.

Naomi Aho of Warren said asking teachers to support gender dysphoria in students was outside their purview as teachers. “It’s inappropriate for teachers and school staff to be involved in this,” she said.