Parents in Grand Haven, Michigan recently got a glimpse of some of the books local schools are promoting to their kids, and they’re not impressed.

In recent months, several parents have spoken out at school board meetings about novels involving graphic gay sex scenes, child rape, and the normalization of sexual perversion in the LGBTQ lifestyle that are assigned to students as young as 10 years old.

The parents offered suggestions and assistance to help local officials weed through inappropriate content and devise a system for flagging potentially offensive materials parents should know about.

But so far, district leaders have largely ignored the issue by shifting the burden of censoring school libraries to parents, as liberal religious figures in the community malign their concerned neighbors as misinformed bigots.

Jennifer Lee Stuppy, mother of a sixth-grader at Lakeshore Middle School, explained to board members last month that she reviewed a seven-page list of LGBTQ books, including some with sexually explicit content warnings, sent to parents in December. Stuppy highlighted excerpts from one of the books, “One Man Guy” by Michael Barakiva.

“When I got the book, I was stunned by what I read thinking about kids ages 10 and 11 reading this book,” Stuppy said. “The book is about a 14 year old boy, Alek, and his romantic encounter with an older sexually experienced, 17-year-old Ethan. Ethan details a sexual relationship he had with a college student who lived in his home when he was only 15 years old himself. Now it’s a few years later and an older, sexually experienced, Ethan is pursuing 14 year old Alek.

“The book talks about how to steal from stores, which teachers they’d like to ‘bang.’ And the thrill Alek experiences in a clothing store dressing room having older Ethan looking at his 14 year old naked body, making out with him, with people nearby. One scene leads the reader to believe an older Ethan will give oral sex or anal sex to 14 year old Alek right as his parents walk in.

“This sexually explicit content, whether gay or straight, in my opinion, has no business being in the hands of 5th and 6th graders who are 10-12 year old minors.”

Stuppy planned to read several of the more graphic excerpts at the meeting, but opted against the idea because of children at the school board meeting. Instead, she shared her written testimony along with the explicit clips directly to board members.

The excerpts included one passage between Ethan and Alek in which Ethan explained that gay relationships work with different rules than straight relationships, because it’s “pretty normal” for gay men to engage in promiscuous, non-monogamous sexual exploits.

Other examples provided to the school board were far more questionable.

“Another parent brought to my attention just this week that we have another book in our schools where a young man describes how much he loved giving oral sex to people in his neighborhood as a six year old child,” Stuppy told the board. “The content like this I’ve seen so far isn’t dissuading or speaking poorly of these acts, or the illegal nature of them, it seemingly attempts to normalize such things, to normalize the sexualization of young children. My hope is that Grand Haven can do better than this for our kids.”

The comments drew a strong response from many folks in the community, including several who wrote in to the Grand Haven Tribune with their opinions. At least one career school librarian defended book selection in the district and justified sexually graphic materials based on advice from literary magazines.

The concerns also prompted a response from Jared Cramer, priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church, who argued the Bible is rife with sexual stories and twisted the issue into an attack on LGBTQ content, in particular.

Cramer contends the graphic sex acts depicted “in young adult literature – gay or straight – helps adolescents form a healthy and positive sense of their sexual identity.” He compared the child rape and other explicit content in the books – acts illegal under state and federal laws – to Judy Blume books about menstruation and wearing a bra.

After the January meeting, Stuppy and others held conversations with their kids about the books assigned at school, and parents quickly learned they’re not the only ones uncomfortable with the material.

Stuppy relayed the experience to the school board at its February meeting.

“Last month after the board meeting I sat down with my 6th graders and told them if they were ever uncomfortable reading something in a book they got from school they could tell us about it. My 6th grade son said ‘yes, I just read something that made me feel very uncomfortable about a man looking at a girls crotch and raping her.’ He ran upstairs and quickly returned with a book his teacher gave him before winter break,” Stuppy told board members.

“The book details a 16 year old girl who is kidnapped and put in a house where an older man comes in the room to sexually assault her. He is kissing her, his tongue is down her throat, he rips her shirt off, his hands are touching her exposed breasts. She plays along like she’s enjoying it for a while. Then she bites his tongue hard, and slashes his face open with a piece of metal. He yells ‘You Bitch,’

“That’s pretty heavy reading material for a 6th grader,” she said. “I would never have consented to this book for my child.”

Other parents spoke up, as well.

“You may say the story is conveying a good message,” one woman said during public comment. “But what about the garbage you have to read to get through the book?”

Despite the objections from parents, district officials have offered limited options to address the concerns. Those options include weekly updates on books children check out from the library, log-in information for parents to monitor what kids are reading, or the option of providing the school with a specific list of book titles parents don’t want their children to read.

The only other option available is for parents is to ban their children from using the library.

“Putting the burden on parents to give them all the titles that they can’t read means that we have to go and find out every book in the library that’s sexually explicit and I don’t think that’s our job. I think they have librarians and I think they should be doing that,” Stuppy told WZZM.

They don’t, and they won’t, according to school officials.

Stuppy and the majority of parents who showed up at recent board meetings hope to change that, and they’re encouraging concerned community members to contact the school board and superintendent to ensure they understand the status-quo is unacceptable.