A group of Prosper ISD parents has taken on the mission of reading each of the books banned from the district’s school libraries to assess whether or not they should be removed.
On Jan. 28, 2022, the Prosper Citizen Group Political Action Committee (Prosper PAC) called for the Prosper Independent School District (PISD) school board to pull 82 books from libraries, deeming them to be sexually graphic, violent and inappropriate for children. In March 2022, the National Coalition Against Censorship reported that 30 books had been banned and called for their return to Prosper ISD libraries.
The list of proposed banned books is public on Prosper PAC’s website and includes several books with LGBTQ+ themes. A 2019 news report from the American Library Association found that of the 10 most banned books nationwide, eight covered LGBTQ+ content.
Over email with Local Profile, Prosper ISD parent and PAC member Aileen Blachowski stated that “oversimplified sex stereotyping” and “the introduction and depiction of very young, gender-questioning characters designed to appeal to very young children presents an ethical boundary” which should not be crossed by taxpayer-funded schools.
Other Prosper ISD parents disagree. The book banning has spawned a heated debate between the two groups.
On Feb. 16, Holly Lister Draper, one of the parents in the reading group, published her first Facebook review of a book banned by Prosper PAC. She discussed The Pants Project by Cat Clarke, a middle-grade novel about 11-year-old Liv, a transgender boy challenging his school’s restrictive dress code.
Draper gave the book five stars, stating that it only took her a few minutes to figure out why Prosper PAC wants to ban this book: the main character has two moms and identifies as transgender.
“That’s it. There is absolutely nothing else in this book that anyone could possibly object to,” Draper wrote in her public Facebook post. Draper added that she loved the book and wants her middle school children to read it. “It teaches very valuable lessons about how we treat others, especially those who might be different than us, and how to accept who we are."
Meanwhile, PAC member Blachowski claims the books are “designed to pit concerned parents and neighbors against one another.”
“It's the oppressed/oppressor models of heterosexuals vs those who identify as LGBTQ, whites vs BIPOC, and now parents vs our own kids,” Blachowski said.
Blachowski claimed that the books on Prosper PAC’s list contain “pervasively vulgar content,” but Lisa West, a member of the reading group, disagreed.
“In many of the books the only thing LGBTQ is it happens to include a gay character. In one book on the list, for example, there is mention that a main character has a crush on another student of the same sex. That’s it. There is no kissing, not that there would be anything wrong with that, but that didn’t even happen. Just mention of a crush,” West said.
“We all care about our kids getting an authentic education, we want them to be accepted in their uniqueness and we want them to be happy, socially well-adjusted, and contributing members of society,” Blachowski said. “And, we want them to know and experience authentic friendship and love. There is a lot more commonality between us than that which divides us.”
Everyone agrees that finding that commonality, as well as celebrating uniqueness and authentic friendship and love is an important aspect of our children's education.
“The Prosper PAC might not like it, but there are children of gay parents in our schools. There are children questioning their gender identity. There are children discovering they are gay. These children must be protected and made to feel welcome in public schools. Children need access to books that offer a wide variety of ideas and information. Books on all topics should be widely available,” Draper said.
West also mentioned the importance of book accessibility.
“Public libraries serve a wide range of people, including those that don't have the disposable income to buy books,” West said. “While I am certain there is information in public libraries and public school libraries I don't personally agree with, I am ok with having that discussion with my own child.”
Draper’s reviews have garnered lots of attention on social media. Her review of The Pants Project has over 270 reactions, mainly likes and hearts from community members who support their initiative.
“One thing my book review posts have taught me is that, while the PAC might be loud, they do not represent most of the people in Prosper ISD,” said Draper. “I have had so many people reach out to me privately to thank me for what I am doing with the book reviews.”