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Posts Tagged ‘book banning’

This is the third update to a developing story I’ve been following for a while now. See the first two parts here and here. The following letter was received from Ed Payton, a member of the Union School District’s Board who voted in favor of keeping “Buster’s Sugartime” on shelves at the school’s libraries, a move which is now making national news. The e-mail was sent from the celebrityattractions.com domain, which appears to be a Payton family business in Tulsa that includes a theater.

Here is the message I received this morning:

This email is being sent to everyone who communicated their opinion to me regarding the recent Union Board of Education decision about the book, ‘Buster’s Sugartime’.

This process reminded me how fortunate we are at Union to have Administrators who clearly demonstrated their commitment to our students and their respect for Union parents.

I was one of three board members who voted to retain the book in our library. I did so because, after careful consideration, I did not believe it was a book advocating any illegal behavior, or particular lifestyle. Rather, it was a book that provided an opportunity for new readers to improve their reading skills, while expanding their understanding of the world around them.

I would like to correct a perception expressed by a few of you who made remarks in your email about the parents who request the book’s removal (‘homophobic’, ‘narrow-minded’, ‘censors’, etc). From my direct experience with these parents during the hearing, those criticisms do not apply. The parents were reasonable individuals, who presented their concerns in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Their concerns did not appear to emanate from a religious or political agenda, but rather from practical parenting. They felt it inappropriate for a kindergartener [sic] to be able to check out a book which contains references to a same sex couple living in a civil union when such a union is illegal in Oklahoma. While I disagree with that position, I can still appreciate their concernn [sic]. Nothing in their presentation indicated that these individuals are homophobic, book banners or book burners. In fact, they stated that this book would be totally appropriate in any state where civil unions or gay marriages were recognized.

If we are ever to move beyond the rancor and raised voices that too often accompany discussions related to this and other ‘hot-button’ issues, we must all learn the respect, civility and good manners that were exhibited by the Union Administrators and the Parents in this situation.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I am more convinced than ever that the Board made the correct decision, and am equally convinced that the kindergartner [sic] in this matter is fortunate to have parents as engaged as these two.

Ed. L. Payton

The following is a response that I filed with Ed by e-mail:

Hi Ed,

First off, thanks for voting to keep the book in the Union school
libraries. I’m glad that you did the right thing. Second, thank you for writing and providing those of us who could not attend the Board Meeting with insight into the thoughts behind your votes.

I agree with you wholeheartedly where you stated that we are fortunate that the Board has folks on it now who listened to students, teachers and others who commented on the item in question. A few years ago, there is a good chance we might not be where we are today and the school district might find itself on the business end of an expensive lawsuit. I’m glad to see that we have made such progress, it gives me hope for a state that some consider hopeless.

However, I’d like to point out that while the parents may indeed have presented their concerns in a professional and respectful manner, the concern they presented was indicative of a homophobic point of view. They were asking you and your fellow board members to remove from view a display of homosexuality that they found offensive for no reason other than the fact that it was homosexual in nature. That, by definition, is homophobia.

There are two types of homophobes: those who are uneducated and scream at the top of their lungs about how the sodomites must be removed from society, that they are going to hell, ad nauseum. The second group is quite educated and presents their homophobia in a much less obnoxious manner. Its the kinder, gentler homophobia and its much more dangerous because those people are smart enough to pass their homophobia off as
a legitimate concern. It looks to me like the parents in this
situation fall squarely into the second group.

The legality or lack thereof of same-sex unions in Oklahoma is
irrelevant to the matter at hand. This is an attempt to tie
homosexuality to an illegal act in an effort to distract from the
issue at hand while demonizing homosexuals. Our Supreme Court has already spoken on this issue and they were quite clear. Homosexuality is not illegal and the people who practice it (regardless of whether folks believe its a choice or the way they are) are not second class citizens. They are entitled to the same rights and the same exposure in the media as everyone else, including the books found in public school libraries.

Not all viewpoints are equal and some are just plain wrong. How can one tell the difference? Simply substitute “same sex” and “homosexual” (and other similar terms) with “mixed race couple” and “African American”. If this same parent came to your Board and asked for this book to be removed because it depicted an African American and a Cacasion being together, would the parents have even been given the time of day by the District? I highly doubt that they would have.

This is how to look at something and find out whats really behind the concern. People often say one thing while doing and meaning another. Its human nature to be manipulative and use false fronts to achieve our goals in life. So were the parents in this case really worried just about protecting kids from indecent material, or making sure that their kids never learn that homosexuality exists and has a legitimate place in our society?

If you have further questions about my comments here, or the ones I filed initially, please feel free to call me anytime at 405.886.5095. As one of the thousands of homosexuals who call Oklahoma my home, I’m always happy to reach out to our elected and appointed leadership to increase understanding of and on issues that are important to me.

It is interesting to note that because of the manner in which the e-mail was sent, I was able to ascertain the e-mail address of each recipient of the letter.  There were a mere 31 people that Ed sent his letter to. So, if he sent it to everyone who e-mailed a comment and since its unlikely there was time for replies to be sent in by mail or delivered personally to the Board, it looks like only those who e-mailed were heard from by the board. The Board did not accept in-person comments at its meeting.

A mere 31 letters were enough for this district to get the message loud and clear. That further assumes that all of the letters were in favor of our position, which its unlikely that they all were. So in this case, the time 31 people took to write a letter to their elected officials, forever changed Oklahoma for the better. I’m proud to know at least two of those people personally, as I recognize their e-mail addresses amongst the recipients.

I’m very proud of our community right now, thanks for everyone who took the time to write in. It very clearly did make a difference!

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The blizzard of e-mails to the Union School District produced results this evening, as the district voted to keep copies of “Buster’s Sugartime,” by Marc Brown on shelves. Special thanks to the fine folks at Oklahomans for Equality for getting the word out about this.

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Just got the following urgent message from Oklahomans for Equality, I’m passing it on here as a public service. Lets go, go, go – we only have a couple of hours to get e-mails in!

Oklahomans for Equality is monitoring a possible book banning issue developing in the Union Public School District of Tulsa County.

The book is “Buster’s Sugartime” by author Marc Brown which was on an episode of the “Postcards from Buster” series on PBS.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Union Public Schools Education Service Center located at 8506 E. 61st St. The board will decide whether to remove the book or possibly limit access to it. This will not be a public forum where people can speak. No public comments will be allowed.

The Board of Education is addressing the situation after a parent brought their concerns to the district’s Materials Review Committee. The committee chose to keep the book on library shelves. The parent was opposed to the depiction of a child with two parents of the same gender. The parent has appealed the committee’s decision to the Union Public School Board.

Nancy McDonald president of PFLAG Tulsa says ” Our society embraces all kinds of families. Those “families” take on many different combinations such as, opposite sex, single parent, grandparents, same-sex and those families can be made up of different races, religions, cultures, ages, and sexual orientation. It is so important that young children have opportunities to see “their” families displayed in reading materials, movies, plays, print, and to know that the most important thing is that they are loved, cared for, and valued no matter what their family structure is.”

Please contact the Union Public School Board Secretary Beverly Thummel by emailing thummel.beverly@unionps.org. Your email will be shared with the Union School Board so be polite and respectful in your tone. If you are in the District 9 Independent Union School District please include that in your correspondence. Please refrain from calling the District’s office.

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