A look at Dearborn’s book controversy

The Dearborn school board is reviewing content that may be “obscene” as defined by the state Supreme Court in determining whether to keep those books out of circulation for students.

An audience member addresses the Dearborn school board at a meeting discussing whether six books should stay in the district's school libraries

An audience member addresses the Dearborn school board at a meeting discussing whether six books should stay in the district's school libraries on October 13, 2022.

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Dearborn Public School board meetings erupted last week with passion and disturbance from hundreds of people who wanted to be heard about what kinds of information should be available in school libraries. However, the controversy began weeks prior.

At a Sept. 12 board meeting, seven books were temporarily held from circulation in school libraries because some community members were upset over the content in those books. At that meeting, board member Hussein Berry said, “I don’t think this debate is anywhere near where it’s going to peak out,” and that this issue is, “not unique to Dearborn.”

About two weeks later, rallies unfolded both in favor and against the decision to keep a number of LGBTQ-themed books from circulation in the district. Since that time, there has only been more commotion in Dearborn, with the controversy directly tying into broader political issues.

“We need to continue to be a welcoming community and a city that accepts everybody, and that’s how we protect our rights.” — Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News

While the decision to hold or circulate the books may seem simple, the issue is more complex, pulling on many different threads.

Some social conservatives in Dearborn are upset by the very presence of LGBTQ material, while others are merely concerned about some sexually graphic descriptions in one of the books being held from circulation. There are also folks who don’t want sex or sexuality-themed material anywhere near their kids in school.

On top of that, in Dearborn there are all kinds of interest groups, particularly on the political right, jumping into the controversy over these books, and pushing their own agendas.


Listen: The nuances behind the Dearborn book controversy debates.

 


Guests

Osama Siblani is the publisher of the Arab American News. He says he wants Dearborn to remain an open, accepting community and is concerned about members of the Republican Party “capitalizing on the emotions of our kids.”

“We need to continue to be a welcoming community and a city that accepts everybody, and that’s how we protect our rights,” says Siblani. “And that’s how we can raise our children who are going to be not only studying in Dearborn, but maybe studying out of Dearborn and working out of Dearborn.”

Glenn Maleyko is the superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools. He says himself and the board are listening to concerns from parents, and are going through a process of reviewing the books in question.

“We have to make sure that all students feel welcome,” says Mayleko, “so that’s why I won’t be making this decision alone. We’re going to follow the law. We’ve had multiple people legal counsel advising myself and the board along the way.”

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