Regrettably, a teacher and vice principal of Efland-Cheeks Elementary School resigned from their positions this week after controversy arose within their community surrounding the teacher’s decision to read a fairy tale about two princes falling in love to his third grade class.
The controversy came about when Omar Currie, the teacher who has resigned from his position, made the decision to read the book King & King to his third grade class after witnessing a male student being bullied for acting “a little feminine.” In a gesture to support the student as well as to provide an opportunity for further conversation surrounding the issue, Currie opted to read the story of two princes falling in love and having a happy-ending marriage. To boot, Currie’s ploy worked: the teasing stopped. Moreover, the school’s literacy specialist said that the boy who had been bullied seemed reassured “for the first time that he was okay just the way he was.”
“When I read the story, the reaction of parents didn’t come into my mind,” Currie said. “In that moment, it just seemed natural to me to read the book and have a conversation about treating people with respect. My focus then was on the child, and helping the child.”
Controversy arose, though, when three parents complained to the school regarding the book’s inclusion in the classroom. The parents sought to have it banned outright from the classroom. After multiple public meetings to address the challenge, a review committee decided it was appropriate but also added the requirement that teachers must notify parents of every book that will be read in the classroom. Currie says that requirement is burdensome, since he reads his students around 500 books in a 180-day school year. Moreover, he objects to the notion that King and King is uniquely controversial.
This is not the first time that the children’s book King & King has inspired controversy with parents and community members. In 2002, state legislators tried to relocate the book to the adult section in the North Carolina, Indiana, and Oklahoma public library systems, and in 2006, Massachusetts elementary school parents attempted to have the book banned from their classrooms when it was read to a second grade class.
In light of the controversy surrounding the book as well as reported pressure from the administration, both Currie and Meg Goodhand, the assistant principal who loaned Currie the title, put in their resignations this week. “I’m resigning because when me and my partner sat down and talked about it, we felt I wasn’t going to have the support I needed to move forward at Efland,” Currie noted. “It’s very disappointing.”
Although this story ends somewhat happier than most with Currie quickly being able to find other work as well as validation from many for his actions, the children in the school system are ultimately the victims. After the resignations, the parents dropped their complaints, but their actions cost the district two obviously dedicated and effective educators.
Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!