NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Flamer by Mike Curato has been the talk of the state for the last week after the Oklahoma Secretary of Public Education deemed it “inappropriate,” asking all schools to remove it from their shelves.
This request started after a social media post from July 26 said two “obscene graphic novels” were potentially available in Tulsa Public Schools, one of them being ‘Flamer’.
“This is inappropriate, sexually explicit material. It’s pornography that does not belong in any public school library,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Joy Hofmeister in a press release on July 27. “We’ve reached out to Tulsa Public Schools and are calling for the books to be removed immediately.”
Hofmeister’s request is trickling down to public schools across the state.
‘Flamer’ depicts a young boy transitioning out of middle school and into high school where he finds himself on the path to self-discovery and acceptance.
Through the story, the main character talks about his feelings for another boy, Elias.
How that story is depicted though is one the Oklahoma Secretary of Public Education, Ryan Walters is calling “inappropriate.”
“The books we’re talking about specifically have graphic depictions of sexual acts being performed that we found in some schools, like in middle schools. You don’t need any type of overtly sexual material in a school with minors,” said Walters.
Walters added that schools “need” to be taking the books off of shelves as they don’t need to be made available to children.
“There’s all kind of legal consequences here. Schools have to be protecting the innocence of our kids. They must ensure that academic learning is going on, not indoctrination,” stated Walters.
Walters said he has been getting multiple emails from parents and teachers who have concerns about not only this book, but a wide range of others. “I’m trying to keep up with it as best as possible to make sure that our schools are protecting our young people and the innocence of the youngest Oklahomans,” he said.
Dozens of books have been sent to Walters, according to him. He said his main focus is to see if any of these books have any academic value. If not, then they’re wiped from public school shelves.
Norman Public Schools Communication Specialist, Chelsey Kraft told KFOR that if any student or guardian is concerned about a specific title or resource, to reach out to the school’s principal about their reconsideration process.
Chelsey added if there is a concern with a classroom reading, an alternative assignment can be requested and will be provided.
News 4 reached out to Governor Kevin Stitt’s office and received a statement via his Press Secretary, Kate Vesper saying, “Oklahoma parents should not have to send their young child to school worrying if there is pornographic material available in their public school library. Governor Stitt stands behind Secretary Walters’ efforts to expose and hold accountable every single school who stocks these sexually explicit books.”
“Parents, reach out to your superintendent, reach out to your school board members. School boards need to be vigilant on this,” added Walters. “Our school boards need to get involved. Parents, keep speaking out again. Parents can feel free to email me, reach out to me.”
Freedom Oklahoma provided KFOR with the following statement:
We know that it’s important for all students to be able to see themselves represented in the books available in our libraries. It’s a critical part of what makes libraries such integral parts of our schools and our broader communities. To ban books that affirm queer students at a time when it’s more urgent than ever for 2SLGBTQ+ kids to be able to imagine a future for themselves isn’t just a dangerous act of censorship, it’s an act of violence towards our most vulnerable youth. Allowing copy and pasted efforts from national groups trying to censor representation with book by book attacks is just as dangerous as full content bans. Queer people and queer students exist, regardless of what books are available in school libraries. Our ability to survive to adulthood, our safety in and beyond Oklahoma, demands representation in school libraries and beyond.Nicole McAfee, Executive Director
News 4 has reached out to Hofmeister for further comment, but has not received a response.