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Former English teacher claims book on LGBTQ Pulse nightclub shooting was banned

The graphic book Love Is Love, about the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, was allegedly banned from a Texas high school. (Photo: Amazon)

A Texas high school has allegedly banned a graphic novel honoring LGBTQ victims of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, due to its “extreme homosexuality,” according to a former teacher.

The alleged banning of the book, Love is Love, from IDW publishing — brought in for students as part of a social-justice graphic novel unit by the English department of Irving High School, near Dallas — "was followed by silence from leadership," and "an eventual cover-up by the district,” according to a former English teacher, Anna Waugh. However, Irving Independent School District officials claim no book in the unit was ever “banned.”

Waugh wrote about her experience with the situation earlier this month in a personal column for The Dallas Voice, explaining that the Irving Schools Foundation provided a grant for the purchase of the graphic novels, which included Love Is Love, which deals with homophobic violence, plus those covering topics such as bullying, sexual abuse, child labor and bigotry.

But just as the books were being laminated to extend their use, Waugh wrote, the principal ordered them to be packed up, as "a complaint had reached" then-superintendent Jose Parra, with someone calling out Love Is Love for “extreme homosexuality.”

“A committee comprised mostly of librarians and the superintendent, who was not listed in attendance but called the meeting that met in his conference room, decided to ban the LGBT book,” Waugh wrote. “Our librarian repeated a rumor that the committee took issue with the novel’s ‘extreme homosexuality.’ I have thought long and hard about that description and can only say that it’s a hateful depiction for a graphic novel that memorializes the victims of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, and that proceeds from the sale benefit the survivors of the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in U.S. history.”

However, Nicole Mansell, Irving ISD's Executive Director of Communications and Marketing, has informed Yahoo Lifestyle that no books were ever "banned,” and no “recommendations were ever made to pull, ban or censor any books.”

“Irving ISD has a history of diversity and prides itself on being an inclusive district. With nearly 35,000 students, the district is committed to meeting the needs of all students. Recent news has suggested that Irving ISD is censoring LGBTQ related content in its libraries; however, more than 1,500 LGBQT related books are available to students across the district,” Irving ISD’s statement read in part.

According to the statement, in 2018, English teachers at Irving High School led a unit on social justice, in which groups of students were required to choose an additional text to read and discus with their peers, one of which being Love is Love.

“In order to fund the purchase of the novels, the teachers applied for a grant from the Irving Schools Foundation. The grant was awarded, and the books were purchased and delivered to campus in late March 2018,” the statement continued. “In late spring 2018, previous district leadership requested additional information about the eight graphic novels to ensure the content met board policy and curriculum standards since a selection of one of the novels would be required reading. The books were removed from the campus while a committee reviewed the graphic novels.

“Based on the summary provided by the review committee, it was determined by previous district leadership that the books would not be required reading; however, all the books, including Love is Love were made available for student self-selection in the teacher’s classrooms during the 2018-2019 academic year and remain accessible.”

Love is Love was published in 2016, in collaboration with DC Entertainment, using, with permission, characters from other publishers and franchises. It features no explicit sexual content. Over $165,000 was raised by the sale of the graphic novel, all donated to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.

“The text is tasteful and respectful and, sadly, representative of this tragic event in our community’s history," Waugh wrote. “Officially, no professional reviews, paperback-only format and 'mature content' sentenced it to banishment. Yet many books are used [at] Irving ISD without professional reviews, especially graphic novels that often don’t get reviewed at all.

“Other books in this unit were also paperback, and they were all retained. As for ‘mature content,’ the back cover does suggest it be for ‘mature readers,’ yet high school falls under that category.”

"At the end of the day, the LGBT students of Irving ISD deserve to see themselves represented in the curriculum and to have their stories told," Waugh wrote.

Irving ISD’s statement concluded, “No recommendations were ever made to pull, ban or censor any books by the Irving ISD Library Services department or any Irving ISD librarian. Irving ISD is a forward thinking, inclusive district where all student voices are represented.”

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