Photo (cc) 2022 by John Ramspott

When we handed out a New England Muzzle Award last December in connection with a needless middle school controversy over the book “Gender Queer,” we had to settle for anonymity: it wasn’t clear who had contacted the Great Barrington Police Department to complain that they’d found a copy in a classroom at the W.E.B. DuBois Middle School.

Well, now we have a candidate. According to a federal lawsuit filed by eighth-grade English teacher Arantzazú Zuzene Galdós-Shapiro, the complaints were filed by a “disgruntled homophobic Middle School janitor,” which led to a search of her classroom. The janitor is not named in the suit, but a report commissioned by school officials identified him as Adam Yorke and said he was no longer employed by the school district, according to a Feb. 24 article by Berkshire Eagle reporter Heather Bellow. We invite Yorke to contact us so that he can make arrangements to pick up his prize.

News of the lawsuit was broken earlier this week by Bellow, who’s been following this story from the beginning. The Boston Globe’s John R. Ellement picked up on it as well.

According to the lawsuit, Yorke may have instigated the incident, but others are far from blameless. The suit also names the town, the school district, Police Chief Paul Storti, Police Officer Joseph O’Brien and School Superintendent Peter Dillon. As Bellow reports, “Yorke had accused Galdós-Shapiro of letting a student sit on her lap and to keep information from parents. He also had provided police with photos of some content of the book that shows the explicit sexual images.” Bellow adds:

A criminal investigation was quickly dismissed after Storti and Dillon and the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office determined that the book was not “pornographic,” and after Yorke was revealed to have an “axe to grind” against the district. But the allegations “left her devastated and profoundly shaken, ill, distressed, and fearful, her reputation publicly destroyed,” the court document says.

Among other allegations against the school district, the teacher said Dillon “knew well and failed to follow the established process for challenging classroom content.”

In other words, Galdós-Shapiro alleges that the defendants backed off only after trampling on her rights. That happened, she charges, because she had been singled out as “a queer Mexican-American.”

“Gender Queer” is an illustrated book by Maia Kobabe that aimed at kids who are questioning their sexuality and that is among the country’s most frequently banned books.

Note: My original post in December mistakenly said that “Gender Queer” had been found in the school library rather than in a classroom. I’ve gone back and corrected that post.

Leave a comment | Read comments

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.