Parents at Horizon Elementary School in Murray, Utah, were upset last month when a teacher read the book Call Me Max to her third-grade class. The book, written by transgender author Kyle Lukoff, is about a transgender boy who teaches his classmates and teacher about his identity.
The book was brought to class by a student, who asked the teacher to read it out loud. Some students asked questions, mostly about puberty. When students told their parents about the book’s subject matter, some parents complained to the district that the book was shared without their permission.
In response, the district has suspended its Diversity Equity Council, as well as an equity books program that the Council worked on. Both are now under review.
The council was formed in 2019 in response to complaints from district employees about equity and mistreatment. The book bundles, which were started by Horizon’s vice principal this fall, are a collection of 38 titles that feature books by diverse authors and cover diverse subjects. The bundles are distributed to elementary schools in the district. While some books on the list feature the LGBTQ community or explore disability, the vast majority are on topics of race and racism.
Call Me Max is not featured in the bundles.
The district has said it wants to review all of the titles on the list to see if any are similar to Call Me Max in content or might cause other concerns.
“[The teacher] just flat out made a mistake,” district spokesman Doug Perry told the Salk Lake Tribune. “That book is not appropriate at the grade level it was being shared.”
The book publisher lists the book’s grade level as 2-4, and the author has responded to the district’s decision by reiterating the book is written for that age group.
“It’s only a problem if you think that being transgender is itself wrong,” Lukoff said to the Salt Lake Tribune. “And it’s not. That’s something the parent then has to work through.”
Many of the books in the bundle programs, as well as others, will remain available in district libraries and classrooms while the review is conducted. Perry said that he does not anticipate the Equity Council or the bundles will be fully dissolved. But for now, no more book bundles are being distributed, and the district has said it plans to discuss with teachers what is appropriate content to be reading to students.
For now, the page on the district’s website explaining the book bundles program is no longer accessible.
The timing of this decision to review these book bundles comes during Black History Month. It comes on the heels of a school in North Ogden, Utah, allowing students to “opt out” of Black History Month curriculum. When a decision will be reached about the future of the program and access to the books remains unclear.