Utah School District Suspends Program After Reading of Trans Kids' Book

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday February 16, 2021

A Utah school district has temporarily pulled the plug on a reading program after a student brought in a copy of a book about a transgender boy and the teacher read it aloud, Newsweek reports.

"'Call Me Max' was read to a class last month after a student brought a copy of the book to the Horizon Elementary School in Murray," the Newsweek article said, reporting that the teacher read the story to a third-grade class.

"The book begins with a school teacher taking class attendance. 'Can you call me Max?' the boy asks, noting that his name on the roll doesn't match how he sees himself," Newsweek summarizes.

Angry parents complained to the school district.

The book's author, Kyle Lukoff, "told Newsweek 'Call Me Max' and other books in the series are about a young trans boy figuring out who he is, making new friends, and sharing about himself with his family and community," the article said.

"Publisher Reycraft Books describes the book as a 'sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender.'"

The school district disagreed, however. According to a district spokesperson, Doug Perry, "That book is not appropriate at the grade level it was being shared."

Still, Perry acknowledged, "Anything in our libraries is fair game for teachers to use right now."

The school district took action by suspending the program altogether "as a review of the literature is undertaken in order to determine if any of the books are similar in topic or may cause concern," the news article noted.

Utah's Salt Lake City School District famously banned all extracurricular school clubs in 1996 rather than allow a single gay-straight alliance to form at one school. The ban was rescinded in 2000 after a bruising, and highly politicized, legal battle.

Lukoff addressed the current controversy, saying, "It's upsetting to learn that the school district is using my work as an excuse to suspend the book program, since that list is made up of so many wonderful, important titles by friends and colleagues."

Lukoff added that it was also "upsetting when people treat transgender children and their friends as problems and controversies, rather than kids who deserve love, support, and understanding."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.