CAMERON, Missouri (LifeSiteNews) — A Missouri school district is stocking dozens of books containing sexually explicit and obscene content on the shelves of its school libraries, according to concerned parents who have petitioned the school board to remove the materials.
In an email correspondence with LifeSite, local parent and retired Missouri State Highway Patrolman Dan Landi highlighted the ongoing months-long effort by local parents to get the Cameron R-1 School District in Missouri to pull some 80 books—mostly in the high school library—which the group of parents says are obscene and inappropriate for students.
Local reporting from March noted that Landi, along with fellow Cameron residents Heath Gilbert and Travis Eldredge (who told LifeSite that Landi “and many others have been the light in the darkness on this matter”) had “spearheaded Cameron’s push to remove explicit materials from school libraries.”
The move is something the My Cameron News Citizen Observer noted is “a small segment of a national effort” to cull explicit content from school libraries and classrooms across the country. The outlet reported that the parents flagged 70 books in the Cameron High School (CHS) library as well as eight at Cameron Veterans Middle School and one at Parkview Elementary School.
Titles named by the parents include “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” “Lucky,” and “The Female of the Species,” which feature graphic sexual content, including explicit descriptions of rape, incest, and homosexuality.
Colleen Hardy, who attended the March school board meeting where she read aloud from some of the books, told LifeSiteNews she has had “many people thank me for reading the filth because they just thought we were overreacting.”
Landi said CHS principal Jayson Erdman and district superintendent Matt Robinson were informed of the offensive materials and have agreed to review the books, but have said they won’t remove them while they’re under review, per school board policy. According to Landi and Gilbert, Robinson also expressed concern that removing the books could trigger an ACLU lawsuit.
“The ACLU is indeed currently involved in a lawsuit with a district in Kansas City for removing books,” Gilbert said. “Mr Robinson told Dan and I in a meeting we had in his office that he was concerned about being sued. Removing books which do not violate any district policy would invite a lawsuit for viewpoint discrimination.”
LifeSiteNews reached out to Erdman and Robinson for comment multiple times but has yet to receive a response.
In his emailed comments, Landi told LifeSite that a committee assigned to review the books—Erdman, Cameron’s assistant principal, librarian Tonya Boyle, English teacher Eden Beasley, and a district parent—includes the very same people who greenlit the books.
“The district policy for the selection of books that [it] will be recommended [that] the district purchase is required to consist of three people. The librarian, a teacher and the principal are supposed to be on that selection committee,” Gilbert told LifeSite.
“Unfortunately the district did not ensure that policy was followed and it appears the librarian [O’Boyle] may have been selecting those books on her own for years,” he said. “We made records requests via Missouri sunshine law to get records of who was on those selection teams. The district ignores those requests so we have to assume there are no records and policy was followed.”
LifeSiteNews has viewed an appeal filed by Gilbert alleging a conflict of interest posed by the current staffing of the book review committee. Gilbert told LifeSite the appeal is still pending, though he anticipates the board will side with the committee.
LifeSite reached out to Boyle and Beasley for comment but did not receive a response.
Though the district has only reviewed a handful of the reported texts, all of those reviewed have been approved to be retained “without restriction.”
According to Landi, the board has recently implemented new policies restricting public comment by parents. He suggested the school board did this to avoid transparency and accountability.
“Policies were indeed recently changed that make it more difficult to address the board,” Gilbert said. While the board did not state that their reasons for doing so were the same ones suggested by Landi, Gilbert said he agrees with Landi’s assessment and pointed out that “they voted for these changes the very night we addressed the board about these books.”
Hardy also told LifeSite that the “school board has done everything to make it difficult for us to speak at school board meetings.”
In his email correspondence with LifeSite, Landi said he believes the district has violated Missouri pornography statutes 573.040 and 573.550, and the First Amendment right of parents to “peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“Dan and I agree there may be violations of the law,” Gilbert said. “We both filed a report. Unfortunately the district has its own police department, so they are quite literally investigating themselves. That investigation is still being conducted.”
LifeSiteNews has not heard back from the district superintendent concerning the police report.
Earlier this month, Gilbert filed a federal lawsuit against the school district alleging that it violated his civil rights after it barred him from public meetings.
“It is not directly related to the book issue but goes to the district violating rights,” he said.
The lawsuit, viewed by LifeSiteNews, states that the district “banned Mr. Gilbert from all school properties, including banning him from property where the Board of Education conducted open public meetings, for seventy days,” an alleged “violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.”
Thus far, according to Landi and Gilbert, no district employees have received disciplinary action with regard to their handling of the obscene books controversy.
“All of those involved still retain the positions they held and are still employed by the district,” Gilbert said.
“Those who are being investigated for providing pornographic material to students are still sitting on the book review committee to determine if the content in those books is appropriate to be in the hands of our children,” he said.