Heated exchanges as hundreds fill Dearborn School Board meeting over LGBTQ+ book debate

There were heated exchanges and tense moments when hundreds filled the Dearborn School Board meeting Thursday to share their thoughts on certain books in libraries.

Read: School board meeting ends after large crowd piles into conference room

It was a continuation of Monday's meeting, which was suspended over safety concerns when groups descended on the meeting room and broke the fire code. Thursday, about 600 people filled Stout Middle School's auditorium, while others were in overflow areas.

Dozens of people wanted their voices heard about the six LCBTQ+ books being reviewed by the district, including "This Book is Gay" and "All Boys Aren't Blue." This review comes after a parent complained that the books were sexually explicit and inappropriate for children.

"A normal, psychologically sound and stable mind would come to a conclusion that that specific material is nothing but sexually explicit," Ziad Abdalmalik said.

Those who disagree say this uproar is not about books at all, but rather about LGBTQ people.

"Stop pretending this is about protecting children from books. We all know this is about erasing our LBGTQ students and staff. It was literally written on signs people brought to the meeting on Monday," said Mary Kay Kubicek.

A Dearborn Schools teacher who spoke during the meeting said one of the books in question has never been checked out by a student in the district.

The pushback against LGBTQ books has made unlikely bedfellows out of Muslims and some political conservatives. GOP candidates Kristina Karamo and Matt DePerno and Republican lawmakers Jim Runestad and Michael Maddock were front and center at Thursday's meeting.

"This issue comes up in Dearborn, but it's the same issue we're seeing in Grand Rapids, we're seeing it in Kalamazoo, we're seeing it in Northern Michigan. We're seeing it everywhere, where school boards think they can ignore the rights of the parents in terms of how their children are educated," DePerno said.

The books in question are off the shelves as the district reviews them. It’s revamping its library book review process-removing volumes "that students are no longer using, that are out of date, or that are not age appropriate for that school level." 

"To the LGBT community, the majority of parents is not here to attack your rights to exist in a free society," Amro Hizam said. "Criticism of age-inappropriate content is not criticism of the LGBT community."

Dearborn Schools has also created a way for parents to limit what books and materials their children have access to.

"If parents do not want their children to read a book, they should not allow them to do that. But to voice their views of one group of citizens on the rest of Dearborn doesn't work either," Judith Jones said at the meeting. "This is what Hitler did, and we all know how that worked out."