Electronics versions of Beyond Magenta and This Book is Gay, books that touch on issues of sexual identity and gender identity, are seen on the shelf at a Winnipeg library. The Brandon School Division (BSD) has rejected a proposal to ban some books from schools that deal with issues of sexual and gender identity, and see a committee decide what books can and cannot be available on library shelves. Photo by Dave Baxter /Winnipeg Sun/Local Journalism InitiativeDave Baxter /Winnipeg Sun/Local Journalism Initiative

The Brandon School Division (BSD) rejected a proposal to ban some books from schools that deal with issues of sexual and gender identity, and that would see a committee decide what books can and cannot be available on library shelves following a lengthy meeting Tuesday night.

Loud cheers erupted at a BSD board meeting after BSD’S board of trustees voted 6-1 to reject a call to create a committee of trustees and parents that would review books available in division schools, and ban books deemed not acceptable for those schools.

The calls for that committee came from Brandon resident Lorraine Hackenschmidt who made a presentation to trustees during a May 8 board meeting about her “concerns” on what she called the “LGBTQ ideology,” while also claiming that some books on shelves in the division’s schools could lead to “sexual grooming and pedophilia.”

“We must protect our children from sexual grooming and pedophilia. The sexualization agenda is robbing children of their innocence,” Hackenschmidt said on May 8.

The proposal from Hackenschmidt garnered a lot of attention, and this week’s board meeting was moved from the division’s board office to a Brandon-based high school gym to accommodate the hundreds of people who attended, and the approximately 30 people who spoke publicly.

Before the vote, Jason Foster, who said he is a transgendered male, spoke about what he said are the dangers of banning books with LGBTQ content and said it could lead to harm and in some cases the death of young people.

“Growing up in a world where feelings must be kept hush, hush, and where even picking up books with LGBTQ positive viewpoints is banned would be a terrible detriment to our lives,” Foster said. “Intolerance and silence breeds a sense of something being wrong and dirty.

“Children are going to die because of the way they feel, kids will hate themselves and they will kill themselves, they will try to force themselves to change, and they will find that they cannot change.”

Foster said he dealt with abuse including having someone tell him the only way his parents would be proud of him is “if they found me hanging in my living room,” because he is transgender, but added people must understand that children and youth do not have control over their feelings of sexual of gender identity.

“These children are not feeling this way because they are sick, they simply feel this way, and if they don’t see content from like-minded individuals that validate those feelings, they will think that something is wrong with them.”

A large number of people in the audience held up signs supporting the LGBTQ community, and many who spoke against the idea of book bans received rousing applause from those in attendance at the meeting.

According to BSD, as of last Friday, the division had received approximately 290 emails and letters in response to the proposal and of those, only six supported the call to review and ban books.

Of the approximately 30 people who spoke at the meeting, only two spoke in favour of Hackenschmidt’s proposal, including Brandon resident John Roozendaal, who said there should be “transparency” regarding what books are available to children.

“With that common ground, my most sincere hope is that we would all have the tolerance to allow each other to ask questions about the education they’re receiving,” Roozendaal told trustees.

“Books may be found to be inappropriate. Let them be examined by adults with the best interests of children, and the light of day for all to see.”

Concerns about books available to children have also been an issue in the city of Winkler recently, as a delegation asked city council to stop funding the South Central Regional Library until certain books that touch on issues of sexuality and LGBTQ issues are removed from any areas of the library where they can be viewed or borrowed by children.

Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 24, 2023 at 13:00

This item reprinted with permission from    The Sun    Winnipeg, Manitoba
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