BETHEL — Directors of Maine School Administrative District 44 voted 11-4 this week to allow the novel “Me, and Earl, and the Dying Girl” to remain in the Telstar Middle/High School Library, despite a complaint that it has language and explicit sexual content inappropriate for middle school students.

Former school board member Stephanie Erickson of Woodstock appealed the recommendation by a school board committee that it be allowed in the library.

She told directors at Monday’s meeting that her intention was not to ban a book. She said there is a very big difference between a public library and a public school library. “I would be the first person to walk this over to the Bethel library,” she said.

The 2021 novel by Jesse Andrews is a story about a teen who spends most of his time making parodies of movies and finds his outlook on life forever changed after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with leukemia, according to sources on the internet.

Before an audience of about 25 people Monday evening, some directors argued in favor of the First Amendment’s free speech clause and for following the school board policy.

“The First Amendment is still a useful guide to us,” Director David Jones said.


“As a board, we are governed by policy … our policy leans heavily on parental authority,” Chairwoman Erin Cooley said. “I think this establishes a dangerous precedent if we choose to remove the book from the shelf.”

There are forms for parents to restrict their child’s book choices, she said.

“What I want shouldn’t infringe on other parents,” Cooley said.

“We need to look at this in the context of the precedent that this would set,” Director Stephanie Herbeck said. “This could possibly open up us being here everyday until everyone of these book in the stacks is looked through and subjectively judged as to whether it is appropriate or not.”

The district’s policy on book selections calls for material to be reviewed objectively and in its full content; evaluated in terms of the needs and interest of students, school, curriculum and community; considered in the light of differing opinions; and reviewed in light of the criteria for initial selection and purpose as provided.

Director David Bartlett said he has always promoted free speech, but does not feel the book is appropriate for middle school students.


“Who is notifying the parents that this book was checked out?” Director Amy Henley asked. “That’s a lot to put on a librarian.”

“I think if a parent wants the kid to have access they should take them to the public library or buy it at home,” Director Tammy Goodwin said.

“We are not suppressing anybody’s freedom of expression,” Director Scott Cole said. “Is it really censorship (by leaving the book at Telstar?)”

Former school board member Marcel Polak of Woodstock requested a roll call vote. “That way everyone in this community will know how you vote,” he said.

Voting in favor of keeping the book in the library were: Stephanie Herbeck, David Jones, Stephanie Cayer, Koral Fraser and Mark Hutchins, all of Bethel; Bryan Kendall, Sheryl Morgan and Marcy Winslow, all of Woodstock; Erin Cooley and Destiny Hughes, both of Greenwood; and Meredith Harrop of Newry.

Voting against were: David Bartlett and Amy Henley, both of Newry; Scott Cole of Bethel; and Tammy Goodwin of Greenwood.


Earlier, during public comments, former school board member Wendy Coffin of Woodstock asked the board to consider a restricted area for certain books. She said she was a home-school parent but her children’s friends go to the Telstar library.

In other business, Superintendent Mark Kenney announced the following:

• Jose Colon is the new maintenance worker, succeeding Clyde Crockett who retired in November 2023.

• Kathy Conrad, fourth grade teacher at Crescent Park School, has been nominated as Oxford County Teacher of the Year.

• The bus garage is officially cleaned up following the December flooding; water, heat and electricity are on, but tools need to be replaced.

Comments are no longer available on this story