Adam Zajac rips up a copy of challenged book “Nick and Charlie” and throws pages onto the stage at an RSU 14 school board meeting last week. Screenshot

A review committee has recommended to the Windham-Raymond school board that the challenged book “Gender Queer” remain on the shelves at the Windham High School library.

“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe is one of five books the review committee has been assigned amid heated debate over the past month surrounding books described as “pornographic” by some community members and by others as important representation for LGBTQ+ students. The review committee is comprised of four staff members at RSU 14 schools and one community member.

If, as expected, an appeal of the review committee’s recommendation is formally submitted, it will be up to the school board to review the book and make a decision of its own.

We have not received an official appeal, but people have until the end of the week to make an official complaint,” Superintendent Chris Howell said in an interview with the Lakes Region Weekly on Monday.

The “Gender Queer” recommendation was met with heated public comment at last week’s school board meeting, echoing that of previous meetings on the topic. Most of the audience members who spoke out were in favor the books’ removal.

Ken Clark from Windham compared the challenged material to Camel cigarettes being advertised to children, saying, “porn is addictive.” He read from a book by David Arthur Kendall, who spoke at a prior school board meeting, which argued that the LGBTQ+ movement is “preying upon and devouring our youth.”


“Instead of coddling these students and clapping, start supporting them by getting them the unbiased, professional and psychological help that they need,” Carrie Smalley said during the public comment period.

Maria Clark of Windham, who said she has filed seven book challenges this year, questioned why the review process is being “dragged on.” “I did not like the fact that at the last meeting, the librarians told me I was cherry-picking certain parts of the books I’m challenging. They also told me they find it difficult to have conversations about the books with people who haven’t read the books … I just want to remind you that no district policy, no employee, has a right to define my method of forming an opinion.”

Others continued to oppose the challenges, arguing that to remove the books in question, particularly “Gender Queer,” would send a harmful message to LGBTQ+ students in the district.

“Some of us are legal adults, so why have we lost all say in what we can and cannot consume in literature?” said Amanda Greslick, a sophomore at Windham High School. “You are taking away learning and exploration from other young adults … it’s not OK to control the way others live their lives,” she said.

“If community members want to do what’s best for all students, I suggest not being belligerent toward them and those who support them,” said Ashlyn Cuthbert, an eighth-grade student.

During the comment period, some members of the public went over their allotted time limit of 3 minutes and some invoked complaints against specific school personnel, prompting Board Chairperson Kate Brix to warn that she would “terminate public comment” if that continued. “This is not the time for cross conversations or debates,” she told the crowd. 


The disruptions continued and board members briefly left their position on the stage and then returned.

When Brix called an end to the public discussion, many in the audience stormed out. Parent Adam Zajac approached the board members and ripped up a copy of “Nick and Charlie” by Alice Oseman, which has also been challenged, and threw it on the stage where the members were sitting. 

“I’m done. You guys can definitely stop trying to charge my kid for that book. It’s trash and it’s not supposed to be in here,” Zajac said, and made a vulgar comment to one of the members before leaving.

“Twenty-seven years of working in the district and this is new territory,” Howell said this week.

Administrators and staff have been “looking at everything from the book selection process, making sure we’re clear about that, and taking a look at our review process and making sure it lines up with the law and rights to access information,” he said.

Those discussions have led many teachers to look at the materials they use and question how they “might be perceived,” he said.

He said he and the school board hope to create an opportunity for “all individuals to share what they’re thinking and weigh in on this topic.”

The district has created a website for community members to view its curriculum and library policies, and track the challenged books, which can be accessed at

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