Marietta superintendent denies parent request to put book back in libraries

"Flamer" by Mike Curato, a graphic novel set in a 1995 summer camp about a boy who is bullied for appearing gay, has been removed from schools in Cobb County and Marietta for containing "sexually explicit content." This copy was checked out from the Fulton County Library System.

Credit: Cassidy Alexander

Credit: Cassidy Alexander

"Flamer" by Mike Curato, a graphic novel set in a 1995 summer camp about a boy who is bullied for appearing gay, has been removed from schools in Cobb County and Marietta for containing "sexually explicit content." This copy was checked out from the Fulton County Library System.

Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera has denied a parent’s appeal to get a graphic novel put back in school libraries after it was removed for containing “sexually explicit content.”

“Based upon a thoughtful review of your request, it was determined that ‘Flamer’ will not be reinstated,” Rivera wrote in a brief letter sent Friday afternoon to respond to the appeal.

“Flamer” by Mike Curato is a graphic novel set in a 1995 summer camp about a boy who is bullied while coming to terms with his sexuality. The book was removed from Cobb schools this year for containing “highly inappropriate” content. A parent then complained about the same book in Marietta schools, and it was removed with one other.

The Marietta City Schools Board of Education then took the additional step to order the superintendent to review all of the books in school libraries — more than 20,000 texts — for sexually explicit material.

The directive is aimed in part at outlining the complaint and appeal process. In Marietta, the school principal or his or her designee determines whether student access to the material that is the subject of the complaint should be removed or restricted.

The board issued its directive on Sept. 13, which also outlined a process for parents to appeal decisions to remove books. Under that process, Kayla Sargent, who currently has three kids in Marietta schools, submitted the appeal on Oct. 6.

Marietta City Schools Superintendent Grant Rivera discusses Georgia Milestone scores for the district during an event at the Marietta Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. (Natrice Miller/ Natrice.miller@ajc,com)

Credit: NATRICE MILLER

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Credit: NATRICE MILLER

“This sets a precedent for removal of pretty much any book,” Sargent told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a major procedural concern that (the board) didn’t consider.”

The 16-page appeal lays out the argument that “Flamer” is not harmful to minors — which is language adopted by state lawmakers in 2022 — or pornographic. It cites similar situations in other school districts, the district’s own policies, legal precedent and statements from anonymous faculty members.

Kayla Sargent, a parent with three kids in Marietta City Schools, is pushing the district to put "Flamer" by Mike Curato back in schools. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Photo courtesy Kayla Sargent

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Credit: Photo courtesy Kayla Sargent

“I hope the board and the superintendent will be consistent in removing books from the libraries that are equally sexually explicit if this is what they truly care about,” Sargent said Friday.

Sargent said she plans to appeal Rivera’s decision to the school board, which board policy permits.

“Parents and Marietta voters are looking forward to seeing where each board member stands on banning books,” she said.

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