Last month, Omar Currie, a school teacher at Efland-Creeks Elementary School in Orange County, North Carolina, resigned from his position after backlash in his community over his inclusion of the children’s book King & King in his third grade class. Subsequently, neighboring public libraries, including Chapel Hill Public Library, have seen an increase in the book’s popularity and have organized a community event for residents to participate.
Entitled “Between the Lines,” the event will include guest talks by Currie, as well as a panel with several University of North Carolina instructors and Mark Kleinschmidt, the first openly gay mayor of Chapel Hill. “Any time there is a surge of attention toward a book, we are interested, as is our community of readers,” noted Susan Brown, Library Director. “So many people are interested in this book, its contents, and in the teacher who ultimately resigned over reading it, that we thought we’d pull together an event to focus on the issues at hand.”
After witnessing one of his students being bullied and being called derogatory names by fellow classmates, Currie felt that reading King & King would incite conversations about respecting your peers. Currie’s gambit worked — the bullying stopped and the student who was being bullied felt better about himself. However, some members of the community didn’t agree that a children’s book about two princes falling in love was appropriate for classrooms and filed a complaint. The book was discussed during multiple public meetings, and 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 argued that the latter decision put an undue burden on teachers — his students alone read 500 books throughout the school year. Due to the controversy surrounding the book and reported pressure from the administration, both Currie and Meg Goodhand, the assistant principal who loaned Currie the title, put in their resignations. After Currie and Goodhand resigned, the three parents who had challenged the book dropped their complaints.
From political figures to educators and experts in child development, the event scheduled for Wednesday, July 8, is an opportunity for the community of Chapel Hill to discuss one of the biggest issues in the news today, and it will also act as an opportunity to shed light on an increasingly troublesome issue plaguing our schools today — the knee-jerk reaction to pull books from classrooms when the content isn’t to a specific person’s liking. Hopefully, the community will make a concerted effort to protect the freedom to read as a result.
Previously on CBLDF.org:
• School Decision Does Not Make for a Fairytale Ending for Teacher
• “I Am A Champion for My Kids”: Teacher Battles Burdensome Notification Policy
• North Carolina Teacher Under Fire for Reading Same-Sex Fairy Tale in Class
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!