School district suspends literacy program after teacher reads class a storybook about a transgender child

A Utah school district has suspended an inclusive literacy program after a teacher outraged parents by reading a class a storybook about a transgender child.

The uproar started when a third-grade student at Horizon Elementary brought a copy of “Call Me Max” from home and asked a teacher to read it aloud to the class during story time. The sweet illustrated book tells the story of a young trans boy who comes to terms with his identity and begins to make new friends.

The teacher, who had not seen the book before, deflected the students’ questions – including one that was about puberty. When parents found out, they were furious.

After a flurry of complaints the Murray City School District decided the best course of action was to suspend its entire Equity Book Bundle Program, even though “Call Me Max” isn’t actually part of the initiative.

The program, which provides elementary schools with a range of diverse and inclusive storybooks, is mainly focused on addressing race and racism. Only two of the 38 books on the list appear to be directly about the LGBT+ community, yet even this was too much for some parents.

District spokesperson Doug Perry told AP that they are not cancelling the program, but are pausing it to review every book on their list to ensure similar concerns are not brought up again.

“[The teacher] just flat out made a mistake,” Perry said. “That book is not appropriate at the grade level it was being shared.”

But the book’s author disagrees. Kyle Lukoff, who is transgender, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday (10 February) that the picture book was written for a kindergarten to third grade audience.

“I find in my experience that adults think that term unlocks a lot of confusion in children when it really doesn’t,” he said, recalling a recent occasion when he read the book to a first grade class. One girl asked him what “transgender” meant and when he explained, “she just said, ‘OK,’ and moved on.'”

“It’s only a problem if you think that being transgender is itself wrong. And it’s not,” he continued. “That’s something the parent then has to work through.”