One Texas high school isn’t getting the message about honoring the victims of the Pulse nighclub shooting.
In 2016, a shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida became the deadliest shooting in US history (which was then overturned by the Las Vegas shooting of 2017). As a response to that shooting, DC Comics released a standalone comic titled Love is Love. The comic included photos of iconic superheroes like Superman and Batwoman holding rainbow pride flags. In addition, it honored several of the 49 victims who died during the infamous shooting, and proceeds went to families of the victims.
But unfortunately, a Texas high school (and school district) doesn’t think this is significant enough to prohibit the banning of the book.
Anna Waugh is a former English teacher at Irving High School in Irving, Texas who wrote about the controversy for the Dallas Voice. In spring of 2018, the English department decided to create a “social justice graphic novel unit based on the interests of our students.” This unit included books that covered topics like violence, bullying, and bigotry. The selected comics were March, Speak, Monster, In Real Life, Hidden, and Love is Love.
Unfortunately, the school board didn’t like the inclusion of Love is Love because of it’s “extreme homosexuality,” so the entire unit was canceled.
“This was followed by silence from leadership, an eventual cover-up by the district, and a new policy gatekeeping teacher-selected materials,” says Waugh.
The problem first appeared after the superintendent received a complaint after word got out of these books. The principal then told the English faculty to stop preparing to give the books to the students. The English department retaliated by requesting that the district follow policy on challenging materials. But, that policy was ignored.
“I have thought long and hard about that description and can only say that it’s a hateful depiction for a graphic novel that memorializes the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, and that proceeds from the sale benefit the survivors of the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in U.S. history,” wrote Waugh for the Dallas Voice.
Following this development, several administration leaders disappeared from service. This includes the head of the English department and Superintendent Jose Parra, who quietly resigned. In addition, a “new policy that requires six-weeks’ notice for non-approved texts” was enacted.
Waugh is now working with teachers still working at the school and the Gay-Straight Alliance’s advisor to fight this ban and new policy from the inside and out.
“We want the graphic novels repurchased and united with the set,” declares Waugh, “and we want the new gatekeeping policy removed to allow teachers the ability to choose texts, including LGBT texts, for their students.”
“At the end of the day, the LGBT students of Irving ISD deserve to see themselves represented in the curriculum and to have their stories told,” Waugh concluded. “Not erased like the district has done with its recordkeeping.”