Yesterday, the National Coalition Against Censorship released a letter to the Board of Education of Columbus County Schools in Whiteville, North Carolina, condemning their position on restricting use of Laurin Mayeno’s children’s book One of a Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo in classrooms.
According to the Columbus News Reporter, in a March 31 event through the UNCW Storyteller Program, a University of North Carolina Wilmington student read the One of a Kind, Like Me to Columbus County elementary schoolers via video. One of a Kind, Like Me is a bilingual book about a child, Danny, who wants to dress in a princess outfit for a school costume parade; he and his mom search for the perfect dress. The book ends with the affirming message that each child, whether dressed as a pineapple, butterfly, or princess, is “one of a kind.”
A few parents posted angrily on Facebook and called the school the following day; one parent recounted saying to her child, “We know that’s a book. That’s make-believe. God made boys and girls.”
The school board immediately acquiesced. Board member Ronnie Strickland said on Facebook, “Obviously, this college student went rogue on this and had absolutely no concept of what is appropriate to share with 1-5 graders. Gender identity politics is in no way appropriate for students at this age level, and we are all cognizant of that fact . . . We are appalled, and please accept our apology.”
Superintendent Dianne Meadows said that “promot[ing] transgender [ideas] . . . was obviously nowhere near our intent . . . The book has positive intent, but it can be taken in a different direction. It was not a good selection or a good topic for young children.” Meadows said it’s “policy to review supplemental materials for age appropriateness,” and the school will be more attentive in the future. In fact, this is not the case; board policy states that “Principals shall establish rules concerning what materials may be brought in by teachers without review.”
The National Coalition Against Censorship’s open letter calls for the district to publicly clarify teachers may use supplemental materials without vetting if the materials comply with their specific school’s policies, and to take no further action banning the use of One of a Kind, Like Me—such a ban, the ban implied by the school board and superintendent, would violate the district’s own procedures. The letter notes that the claim that One of a Kind, Like Me is “age-inappropriate” is a smokescreen for anti-trans political views, which raises First Amendment concerns.
Said Mayeno, the author, in an op-ed for the Huffington Post: “Transgender, nonbinary, queer and gender-nonconforming kids exist. They have always been part of our schools, communities and families. They’re here to stay, and trying to make them invisible or legislate away their existence won’t change that fact. Now, more than ever, they need and deserve schools that affirm and celebrate them . . . Bottom line: There’s no inappropriate age for learning about love and acceptance.”