The Chilliwack School Board, 2019.

Book-banning discussed as Chilliwack trustee’s motion on parental consent fails

‘This is Alabama time, and we should stay away from it,’ board chair argues

A Chilliwack school trustee reading out a steamy passage from a young adult novel didn’t help pass her motion that would have required parents to have informed consent on all materials used in the classroom.

Trustee Heather Maahs read from Australian author John Marsden’s 1993 book Tomorrow, When the War Began, about a teenage girl living through an insurgence by an unnamed country.

“’I was clinging to him and pressing against him as though I wanted to let my whole body inside him and I liked the way I could make him groan and grasp and swear [the novel actually says ‘sweat’],’” Maahs read aloud at a meeting Tuesday night.

“‘I liked giving him pleasure, although it was hard to tell what was pleasure and what was pain. I was teasing him, touching him and saying “Does that hurt? Does that? Does that?” and he was panting saying “Oh God … no, yes, no.” It made me feel powerful.’”

The excerpt is from a Grade 9 novel, in which the main character explains that she and her love interest, and most of their friends, are virgins.

The motion, which failed 4-3, would have required teachers to foresee “resources that some may consider controversial” and inform parents about their use. It does not explicitly target sexual content, but Maahs emphasized that point at the meeting.

“I think we can all figure out that I’m talking about sexual content in the curriculum … I am talking about SOGI 123, but I’m also talking about novels and anything that may arrive in a sexual nature,” Maahs said, referring to the sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum in B.C.

READ MORE: Trustee admits to losing her ‘cool’ during Chilliwack dress code discussion

School board chair Dan Coulter noted several reasons the motion should fail, including contravention of the School Act and that it was reminiscent of book banning and book burning.

“People would be objecting to phrases in books in libraries,” Coulter said, adding books on biology could be deemed controversial by some parents. “It would be endless. This is Alabama time, and we should stay away from it.”

Other trustees said parents can already speak to their children’s teachers about content used in a classroom. Maahs, however, said her motion would allow parents the opt their child out of conversations before they happen.

A book-banning case happened closer to home than Alabama. About 20 years ago, the Surrey School Board tried ban three children’s books: Belinda’s Bouquet, Asha’s Mums, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the ban breached the School Act.

Marsden’s book and its series has earned accolades internationally, including the Children’s Book Council of Australia, the New South Wales Board of Studies, and the American Library Association, among others.

READ MORE: Teachers’ union says SOGI 123 debate by Chilliwack trustee candidates is irrelevant


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