Thomas Cole talks about Santa Barbara Unified making graphic novel available in high school libraries
A graphic novel available in high school libraries in the Santa Barbara Unified School District — which visually depicts various sexual content, including masturbation and oral sexual activity — has drawn scrutiny and condemnation from parents and conservative activists.
The book in question, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, was a central focus point of a press conference held Thursday at the Montecito Inn by Thomas Cole, a local media and political consultant who founded Analytics805.
“We’re not against gay people at all. We’re not against sex. We’re not prudes,” Mr. Cole said during his remarks. “(But) we are against school grooming of students with explicit sexual material depicting minors engaged in sex, which is what is in the book that we’re talking about.”
When reviewing the copy of “Gender Queer” that Mr. Cole had on-hand during the presentation, the News-Press found that the formatting of the book, which is a memoir, made it difficult to determine whether minors were depicted in illustrations that included sexual activity.
When pressed on this point by the News-Press, Mr. Cole stated that regardless of the age of those depicted, such material should not be made available to minors. He then went as far as to allege that making such material available to high school students constituted a violation of the law prohibiting the distribution of sexual material to minors.
Aside from the book being available in high school libraries, Mr. Cole also alleged that concerned parents of students at Dos Pueblos High School and Santa Barbara High School reached out to him saying that “Gender Queer” was listed as “required reading” in their students’ classes.
Mr. Cole declined to provide evidence to these allegations out of concern for the privacy and safety of the parents and their children.
Nick Masuda, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara Unified School District, told the News-Press on Thursday that “Gender Queer” was not included in any lists of either required or recommended reading in the district.
When asked whether Santa Barbara Unified considered the content of the book appropriate for high school students, the district responded in a statement to the News-Press that “(SBUSD) librarians not only put a tremendous amount of effort and thought into the thousands of books that are available in our libraries across the district, they also follow a set of criteria and guidelines for selection.”
“We understand that some literature can be perceived as controversial, and when that happens, we offer a process for parents and students to challenge materials,” SBUSD’s statement continued. “As a district, we are firm believers in providing literature for all audiences, as it speaks to our goal of being inclusive in all that we do. As always, we appreciate all voices and welcome them to sit at the table as we discuss what is and isn’t appropriate for our libraries.”