Florida school district removes Telgemeier’s ‘Drama,’ 15 other books from shelves

‘Drama’ is once again at the center of school drama as the often-banned book is targeted by a conservative political group; this comes a few weeks after ‘Maus’ was banned in Tennessee.

Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, one of the most challenged books of the last decade, has been “quarantined” by a school district after a conservative political group complained it contained “obscene material.”

Polk County Public Schools removed 16 books from shelves and placed them in “quarantine” — that’s actually how they referred to it; I hope they gave it a mask — after County Citizens Defending Freedom complained that they violated two Florida statutes related to distributing obscene or harmful materials to children.

“While it is not the role of my office to approve/evaluate instructional or resource materials at that level, I do have an obligation to review any allegation that a crime is being or has been committed,” Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Frederick Heid wrote in the email to the Ledger. “It is also my obligation to provide safeguards to protect our employees. The district will be taking the following steps to ensure that we address this issue honestly, fairly, and transparently.” 

Other books pulled by administrators included Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, George by Alex Gino and Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. The school district plans to hold “a thorough, thoughtful review of their content” before deciding if they should be removed permanently.

The removal follows the removal of Art Spiegelman’s Maus by a Tennessee school district earlier this month. The McMinn County School Board voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel from an eighth grade language arts curriculum because of profanity and an image of female nudity. Spiegelman said he was “baffled” by the ban and called it “Orwellian.”

The McMinn County Board of Education doubled-down on their decision, which has been criticized extensively in the media and on social media — they released a statement on their website about the ban. Meanwhile, finding copies of Maus can be a challenge in itself right now; the attention it has gotten has driven sales through the roof.

“We’ve got a number of copies on order, though they may take another week or two to arrive,” Rogue’s Gallery, a comic shop in Austin, Texas, posted on Facebook. “We’ll also be pursuing restocks wherever copies turn up at other distributors. It might be tough to find for a few weeks or months, though – banning it has made it more popular than ever and it’s selling out everywhere.”

A GoFundMe campaign by Nirvana Comics in Knoxville has raised more than $80,000 to purchase copies for students to purchase Maus for students, while a college professor is offering a free online course on Maus for McMinn County eighth graders or high school students.

And these challenges follow the many seen last year, when Gender Queer, New Kid, Class Act and Fun Home were all in the news for various challenges and removals across the country.

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