From targeting teachers who include lessons about American history, which keeps being erroneously labeled “critical race theory,” to banning books, GOP supporters have no limits. In the most recent incident of conservatives meddling in youth education, a children’s book author was forbidden from reading his book at an Ohio school.
Author Jason Tharp was banned from reading his book “It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn!” to students at an elementary school in the Buckeye Valley Local School District after the principal called with concerns that the book would “recruit” students “to become gay.”
“I just straight up asked him, ‘Does somebody think I made a gay book?’ ” Tharp told The Washington Post. “And he said, ‘Yes. … The concern is that you’re coming with an agenda to recruit kids to become gay.’ ”
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In an interview with WBNS, Jeremy Froehlich, the interim superintendent said the concern arose from one parent who visited his office on April 6. “They just wanted to make sure that we vetted the book and our staff thought that they had vetted it,” he said.
Tharp’s book was written in 2017 for children who felt like they needed to be seen. He told the Post he developed the unicorn character to remind his readers that it’s okay to be different.
“I sat down and tried to figure out what kind of character would be nonthreatening, that they will be instantly lovable, and I would be able to kind of get them … to be invested in the story,” Tharp said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I was like, ‘Kids like unicorns.’”
According to Tharp, the main message behind Tharp's series of children's books is pushing self-confidence, boosting self-esteem, and speaking out against bullying.
But of course, for some, a book featuring a blue and purple unicorn underneath a rainbow was too controversial.
However instead of arguing, Tharp respected the school official’s wishes and offered another book to read, “It’s Okay to Smell Good!” This book about a skunk seemed more fit, especially since it had no rainbows. Yet moments after his call with the principal, he received an email noting that higher-ups did not want him reading any books at all. Instead, he was asked to present without any reference to a book.
While the school district was against the book though, several parents were angry with the superintendent’s decision. An emergency school board meeting was held on April 8 to address the issue, during which multiple community members expressed their disappointment over the book being forbidden.
“It’s a rainbow. The fact that we had to take all of the students’ artwork down—it was gut-wrenching, and we couldn’t even believe we were in that position to do so, but we did what we were told,” Kaylan Brazelton, a parent and educator at the elementary school, said at the meeting.
This isn’t the first time assumptions about books have negatively impacted people’s careers. Last month, an assistant principal at a Mississippi elementary school was fired after reading the children’s book “I Need a New Butt!” to second-graders. The book was deemed inappropriate by the superintendent.
According to WSYX, the nationwide book bans have become more popular following the passage of Florida's “Don't Say Gay” bill. The outlet reported that at least two Ohio lawmakers introduced similar legislation this week that would bar discussions mentioning sexual orientation and gender identity in some school grades.