In response to Mount Horeb School District’s recent decision to cancel a reading of the children’s book I Am Jazz in response to a lawsuit threat from the Christian nonprofit Liberty Counsel, the Wisconsin town is taking matters into their own hands to show support for those who identify as transgender within their community.
I Am Jazz, which was originally scheduled to be read at the Mount Horeb Primary Center as a way to embrace and support a transitioning 6-year old student, was abruptly canceled after Liberty Counsel — an organization listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group — threatened the school district with a lawsuit if they proceeded. Their claim was that the book “spouts a number of false and inaccurate claims,” and reading the book would “miseducate children with what essentially amount to propaganda and mistruths.”
In light of the legal threat, the school district canceled the planned reading and stated that they would be giving “parents the additional time to review the materials” before taking any action. As reported by The Capital Times, the district had “chosen not to proceed as originally planned and allow the Board of Education the opportunity to review the needs of all involved, and address a situation for which the District has no current policy.”
Although things looked grim, Liberty Counsel won’t have the last word about I Am Jazz. The Mount Horeb community has stood up and scheduled two separate reading events themselves, one at the Mount Horeb High School that will led by the school’s Straight and Gay Alliance and the other at the Mount Horeb Library to be hosted by parent Amy Lyle. “When we heard about the lawsuit, we felt angry and concerned that an identified hate group would try to insert themselves into our community, threaten our teachers and school district, and try to intimidate others,” said Lyle. “We were concerned about how the family would be feeling and we felt a need to communicate to them that there is support in our community,” continued Lyle to Wisconsin State Journal. “We want all LGBT youth to feel supported and to feel accepted and to know that Mount Horeb is an accepting place for all.”
For high school social studies teacher Beth Maglio, the scheduled meeting at Mount Horeb HS is meant to “show our support and solidarity with the transgender community, staff and students.”
“We were in awe of the support that people have come out and given us not even knowing who we are,” said the mother of the 6-year transgender girl in response to the community support. She added:
We are thankful for this… We want people to remember that at the center of all of this is a child and her family. This child is a very brave, strong, and amazing child that will be dealing with a rough road ahead. We’ve spent a year discussing (her transition) and figuring out if it’s what we needed to do. But, for our child to be happy, this is what we needed to do. Our 6-year-old can finally be who she really is.
Although discussions are still being held at the school district level, the organization of these two public events reminds everyone about the fundamental importance of the availability of information and teaching children inclusion and acceptance. “I don’t know if there is a more important lesson to be taught in our schools [than inclusion],” said Lyle. “We firmly believe that education and information creates informed and compassionate children who turn into compassionate and respectful adults. It’s our obligation to provide the information. Families can have their own discussions outside the school, but the information should be provided.”
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!