(WTVO) — An Illinois middle school teacher had the police called on her by a parent over her book choice for students.
Sarah Booner, who has taught Illinois middle schoolers for 20 years, held what she called a “book tasting” for students on March 13, according to Today.
“I wanted to give them a smattering of fiction and nonfiction to choose from on a day that we call ‘Reading Monday,” Bonner, 42, said. “We just read and celebrate books.”
One of the books on hand was “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, a nonfiction book that is billed as an “instruction manual” for anyone coming out as LGBTQ.
“By Wednesday, I received notice that parents had gotten a hold of pictures from that book that their child had taken in class,” Bonner said. “By Friday, I was told that parents had filed a police report against me for child endangerment.”
Bonner added that she had structure a curriculum to include a “diverse library of texts” after hearing students’ interests and questions. These included books centering around LGBTQ, Black and Indigenous themes and characters.
“I’ve been fortunate up until now to be supported by the communities that I’ve taught with,” Bonner said. “The signs (of a potential issue) started at the beginning of this school year … and this heightened culture war that’s continuing to build nationwide.”
A research report from the National Literacy in Trust in 2020 showed that most kids aged 9-18 think it is “important to read books from a range of backgrounds.” During the 2021-20022 school year, over 1,600 books were banned, with more than half of them having LGBTQ themes.
“The difference is that I have that love and care for all students, not just a singular student,” Bonner said. “In regards to the book that was challenged in my classroom, it was a message to the LGBTQ+ community in my room and in my district that they’re ‘less than.'”
Bonner was placed on administrative leave the day after she learned about the police report. The letter from the school district said that they had “recently became aware of certain allegations” against her and was “currently investigating.”
She was told “not to perform any duties for the school district” until the investigation was complete. Instead, Bonner decided to resign.
“I couldn’t be the professional I’ve worked hard to be,” she said. “My first instinct was the kids. If I am a safe place and I’m leaving, what does that do for our students?” ‘What about the kids?’ has always been a question rooted in everything I do.”
Bonner said that she was disappointed by how things turned out, but was not surprised.
“It’s really interesting that people continue to use the word ‘teacher shortage,'” she said. “I don’t believe that there’s a teacher shortage. There is a lack of acknowledgement of the profession itself.”
“Our students need teachers now more than ever,” Bonner added. “I will always be a teacher, and I will always be a middle school teacher at heart, regardless of where I am and what I do.”