June 19, 2015

3rd grade teacher resigns after parents protest a gay-themed fairy tale


Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland's Dutch children's book KING AND KING was first published in the States in 2002

Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland’s Dutch children’s book KING AND KING was first published in the States in 2002

After noticing derogatory gay stereotyping among his 3rd grade students, North Carolina teacher Omar Currie read the children’s book King and King to his class.

In King and King, “a grouchy queen tells her layabout son that it’s time for him to marry, [and] he sighs, ‘Very well, Mother . . . I must say, though, that I’ve never cared much for princesses.’” A parade of suitable princesses visits the castle, but it’s Prince Lee who captures the bachelor’s heart. There’s a royal wedding for the two princes and “everyone lives happily ever after” (from Publishers Weekly).

Parents protested and, according to the Los Angeles Times, 200 people attended a community hearing that the Washington Times said “turned heated”; one grandmother told the News & Observer “This is nothing more than bringing homosexuality into a school where it does not belong.”

The school officially defended Currie’s choice to share the book in class, but the principal later instructed all teachers to inform parents of any books they planned to read to students, and Currie resigned along with the school’s assistant principal, Meg Goodhand. Currie said he was “intimidated” by some school administrators and “felt they were trying to silence the conversation.”

“Here in Orange County,” Currie said, “I repeatedly heard from school officials that the book might have been appropriate to read in a more progressive area without parental consent, but in Efland we need time.”

Unfortunately, King and King has been the subject of controversy even in more “progressive” places, like Lexington, Massachusetts, where parents have also objected to King and King. In 2006, a teacher shared the book with her 2nd grade class and was met with outrage from the community that sought “to rid the state’s schools of books and lessons that advance the ‘homosexual agenda’ in public schools.” For the Globe, Jeff Jacoby called the teacher’s actions “blatant propagandizing” and questioned the “values” she was helping to promote.

Nearly a decade later, and laws allowing same-sex marriage passed in many states across the country, and yet, at least in Efland, North Carolina, still such a long way to go.

Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.