Gay-themed children's book challenged in North Carolina school

Third-grade teacher in North Carolina comes under fire for reading students gay-themed fairy tale

A North Carolina third-grade teacher is under fire after reading his students a children's book about two princes who fall in love with each other.

Omar Currie, a 25-year-old teacher at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School in Efland, N.C., was criticized by angry parents after he read Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland's "King & King" to his students, the News & Observer reports. Currie decided to teach the book after "a boy in his class who acts 'a little feminine' was being called a girl and the word gay was used in a derogatory way."

About 200 community members, both supporters and opponents of the book, attended a public forum at the elementary school last Friday night. While the book won the approval of a review committee last week, Currie said the school's principal has "instituted new policies that require teachers to notify parents of all the books they plan to read in class."

"Here in Orange County, [N.C.], I repeatedly heard from school officials that the book might have been appropriate to read in a more progressive area without parental consent," Currie, who is gay, said during the forum, "but in Efland we need time."

One grandparent, Lisa Baptist, said the book is inappropriate for young students. "I've been called a racist. I’ve been called a bigot, and I am none of those things," she said. "This is nothing more than bringing homosexuality into a school where it does not belong."

The forum was contentious. WRAL-TV reported that extra sheriff's deputies were on hand for security, and ABC11/WTVD-TV noted that "one parent was kicked out for being disruptive."

"King & King," about a crown prince who has "never cared much for princesses," was written in Dutch and originally published in the Netherlands. The English translation was first published in the United States in 2002 by Tricycle Press in Berkeley. It has been controversial for years; the American Library Assn. listed the book as one of the 10 most challenged in the country in 2003 and 2004.

The book was also the subject of a federal lawsuit. In 2006, parents in Massachusetts sued a school and a teacher who read the book aloud in class; the lawsuit was later dismissed by a judge.

Although the use of the book was upheld in Efland, it might be the last time that Currie teaches it to students in that school. The teacher told ABC11/WTVD-TV that he "is considering resigning from the school following the book backlash."

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