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Kent School District to vote on ban of book featuring LGBTQ+ content

"Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)" has drawn criticism from parents and staff in the school district.

KENT, Wash. — The Kent School District tabled a vote Wednesday on whether to ban a book from its middle school libraries. 

The Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is threatening possible legal action if the book is removed.

For months, Kent librarians have been working to address concerns surrounding a book titled "Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts).” The book is about an LGBTQ+ student who is blackmailed.

“The main story is about him trying to figure out what's going on here and protect himself and how he's not getting support from the school administration or even some of his peers,” said Scott Quinn, a librarian at Meeker Middle School in Kent.

The book was found at Cedar Heights Middle School and was challenged by Keri Allsop, who claims to be a parent or guardian of a student in the district. The book covers topics involving sex, drugs and uses profanity.

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A 15-person Instructional Material Committee voted 12-to-3 recommending the book be removed. The principal of Cedar Heights Middle School also thinks the book should be removed. In a letter, the principal said the book is not appropriate for kids ages 12 to 13.

The school board failed to come to a decision Wednesday on whether or not to ban the book. 

The book isn't required reading. District librarians believe it's appropriate and beneficial for some older middle school students.

“It covers a lot of issues that are relevant to some of our LGBTQ students,” said Quinn. “That's why when we were looking at it, we wanted to have it available as an option if students were at a point where they needed that.”

If the board votes to ban the book, it likely won't be the end of the dispute.

“We have reason to believe that there are groups that will challenge the legitimacy of the ban,” said Quinn.

Those groups include the ACLU-Washington and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. The groups sent a letter to the district Monday calling the potential ban unconstitutional.

“The board has no basis for denying students access to a specific book based on the disagreement and discomfort of certain parents with the book's content,” the ACLU wrote in its letter.

Librarians pleaded their case to keep "Jack of Hearts" at Wednesday's school board meeting. Other community members also chimed in, mostly in support of keeping the book on middle school shelves. However, some commenters said they felt the book was too mature for students. 

There was over an hour of public comment at Wednesday night's meeting. 

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