Anoka County School Board Meeting – Aug 26th, 2013

Anoka County School Board Meeting – Aug 26th, 2013:


So this is the school board meeting where some parents pushed for censorship of Eleanor & Park from the schools of Anoka County. You need to click #5 for the public comment part. The first two parents are pushing for removal of the book and punishment for the media specialists who chose it. 

But the third parent speaking on the book was amazing. It was so heartfelt and moving. Thank you to that mom for standing up for all the young people out there who need to see their stories told (and need to read stories that are about people unlike them too). 

Then it gets a bit gross again with a woman calling Eleanor and Park making out “pornography”. I just wanted to point out how important it is to not just get worked up when you’re offense and participate in public forums only in those situations. This mom was great and I am sure her daughter is proud of her for standing up for the right to read.

I loved that part, too. The woman who spoke in defense of Eleanor & Park is Melissa Thompson. Her remarks begin around 14:10 in the video, and end around 18:40, if you want to avoid the hate-mongering that comes before and after.

From Thompson’s remarks:

[Eleanor & Park] does have strong language. But it’s no worse than what is heard regularly in the hallways, bathrooms, and parking lots of any of our secondary schools. While the subject matter is quite harsh at times, it’s real, and speaks to the issues facing many teens, past, present and future.

As someone who grew up in severe poverty and with bullying, I felt a deep connection to Eleanor, the book’s main character. And just because someone’s life isn’t pretty or perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of representation or recognition. The reality is that many of our students are living in the situation Eleanor finds herself in, and just reading this book can help them realize one, that they’re not alone, and two, that people can and do care.

I also really loved it at the end of her remarks, where she went off script, trying to find an appropriate way to characterize those who would smear the book as pornographic. “It’s… a good book”, she finally said.

It’s worth pointing out that the Parents Action League (PAL), which has led the effort to ban E&P and punish the school librarians who selected it for the summer reading program, has a history of promoting hate. Prominent members of the group were involved in crafting and promoting anti-gay policies in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, where nine students, many of them gay, committed suicide between 2009 and 2011. After advocacy groups brought lawsuits against the district, saying its policies contributed to anti-gay harassment and gender-based discrimination, and after the Department of Justice and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights began investigations, the district agreed to overturn the policies and make reforms — reforms the PAL continues to fight.

Reading through the materials on the PAL website is fairly depressing. Something that became clear to me in researching their history and watching the testimony against Eleanor & Park is that what they are doing is itself a form of bullying. They wish to silence and intimidate anyone who believes differently than they do. It isn’t just the harsh language in Eleanor & Park that bothers them. It’s the book’s underlying message of hope. Eleanor and Park feel different than their peers. They feel bullied and marginalized. But together they find the means to survive and move forward. It’s a beautiful, poignant, empowering story. And it’s that underlying message of hope that the bullies in the PAL wish to silence.

I loved seeing Melissa Thompson stand up to that bullying. I’m so proud of her.

Reposted from

Tags: eleanor & park, bullying, parents action league, anti-gay hate, anoka-hennepin school district.

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