The MSAD 6 school board voted Tuesday night to keep a controversial book on sexuality and gender identity on the shelves of the middle school library, rejecting an appeal from some parents who argued that some of its contents were pornographic and inappropriate for that age group.

The 11-member board, which represents Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Standish and Frye Island, heard comments from 15 people at a public hearing before voting 10-1 to continue making the book “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing up, Sex, Gender and Sexual Health” by Robie H. Harris available to students.

School board member Erika Creutz of Standish said she has school-age children and after reading the book found it “neutral in tone.” Removing it would be detrimental to district schools, she said.

“It’s Perfectly Normal” and “Gender Queer,” are two books that have either been banned by some school districts in Maine or are being considered for bans. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“Sending a message of intolerance (to the LGBTQ+ community) could cause significant harm,” she said.

Board members did not take action on a second book, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, which has also been called into question by some parents in the Bonny Eagle school community. “Gender Queer,” which is available at the Bonny Eagle High School library, tops the American Library Association’s list of books that were challenged in 2021 in school districts throughout the nation.

School board members heard testimony on both sides of the issue at an Aug. 22 meeting, and were assigned to read the two books before making a final decision. Parents raised concerns about “Gender Queer” more recently than they did about “It’s Perfectly Normal,” and the board chose to hold a second hearing and vote on that book at a later date.


Neither book is part of any SAD 6 curriculum or assigned to students in any district class. “It’s Perfectly Normal” is available at the middle school library, but parents can tell librarians not to allow their children to check it out.

Critics complained that the content is unsuitable for children ages 10 through 14, pointing to images they labeled as pornographic, as well as candid discussions of topics such as masturbation and birth control.

“This is not an issue about intolerance. This is an issue about what is age appropriate,” said Vicki Shane of Buxton.

Charity Boedeker of Buxton said parents, not educators, should decide what sexual issues to discuss with their children. She said “It’s Perfectly Normal” is too graphic to be available in a school library.

Several people spoke in favor of keeping the book on library shelves, including Elizabeth Stover a former teacher who lives in Hollis. Stover said banning the book would cast a negative light on the definition of family. She said families in modern society are diverse.

“My students said a family is the people you live with, who love you, and take care of you,” Stover told the school board.


School board member Kelley Heath of Hollis said she values the expertise of the district’s librarians and teachers, who support keeping the book in circulation.

“We should not be in the business of censoring books that have been carefully selected by trained professionals,” Heath said.

But board member Julie Anderson of Limington, the only member who voted to have the book removed, said the district needs to respect the rights of parents expressing genuine concerns over the book’s depictions of sexuality and gender.

“They (parents) are not the enemy,” Anderson said. “These books only confirm gender identity confusion in younger children.”

Anderson attempted unsuccessfully to amend the motion to keep the book in circulation so it could not be checked out by students without their parents’ consent. That motion failed 9-2 with only Chairman Nathan Carlow voting in favor.

“It’s Perfectly Normal” was published in 1994 and has been updated since then, most recently last year. Superintendent Clay Gleason said the book has only been checked out a couple of times. The book cover states it is “for age 10 and up,” and the introduction says it was written to help kids answer questions about their bodies and sex.


The book is broken into chapters such as “What is Sex?” and “Puberty” and “Families and Babies.” It covers sex and gender, explains how pregnancies occur and includes diagrams of sex organs. It breaks down the meaning of LGBTQ+ and defines terms such as bisexual and transgender.

Nearly every page of the book is illustrated, and some drawings show cartoonish naked bodies – in a chapter about the changes that occur during puberty, in a two-page spread that shows many kinds of bodies, and on one page that shows couples having sex.

The district’s curriculum review committee found “It’s Perfectly Normal,” to be “normatively appropriate” and advised against removing it from the library. In its report, the committee said the book uses medical terminology, continually reinforces the idea of speaking with a trusted adult, emphasizes caution in decision making and reinforces the power to say no.

The report notes that the book received a number of honors and awards when it was published and has won support from experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It has also been challenged repeatedly in school districts across the country.

Two dozen people signed the July letter appealing the committee’s recommendation to keep the book in the middle school library. The letter cited information and illustrations about sexual intercourse, masturbation, birth control and abortion.

“This flies in the face of our community values and its predominantly Judeo/Christian culture,” the letter says. “This book is obscene and clearly not age appropriate for any age below the age of majority.”

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