More than 400 students across Fairfax County, Virginia’s, public school system sent a letter to the school board on Thursday. The letter called on members to reject requests for controversial books to be removed from libraries.
The signatures were gathered by the Pride Liberation Project, a group of Fairfax County students in the LGBTQ+ community.
“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in FCPS, have signed this letter,” the group said on Thursday.
It followed a decision by the school system last month to remove two books from high school libraries, including a memoir that contained explicit illustrations of sexual encounters involving children.
The school system initially said it was conducting a review. Later, it confirmed it was pulling “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison from circulation pending a more detailed review.
Two committees of staff, students and parents will assess both books and make recommendations to the assistant superintendent of instructional services “who will make a final decision as to whether FCPS continues to provide access to these books in our high school libraries,” the school system said.
Online inventory systems showed both books were widely available throughout high school libraries in Fairfax County.
Aaryan Rawal, founder of the Pride Liberation Project, said the books are being called “controversial” largely because they depict gay relationships.
“We’re definitely seeing a lot of bigoted talking points emerge,” Rawal said. “These books are narratives and they have stories to them that can’t just be summarized by sex.”
One or both books are available in school systems throughout the region, including Loudoun County, Arlington County, Alexandria and Montgomery County, Maryland, schools, according to online catalogs.
“LGBTQIA representation in literature is critical to fostering validation, acceptance and self-affirmation for queer students,” the group said in its letter. “Research indicates that positive LGBTQIA representation can empower queer youth to both cope with discrimination and overcome the turbulence of adolescence and young adulthood.”
The controversy is the latest to befuddle Fairfax County’s school board, and others across Virginia and the country, as some parents object to masks in schools, anti-racism curriculum and policy changes requiring transgender students be referred to by their preferred pronouns.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.