Contentious school board meeting over sexually explicit books ended by fire marshal, but was overcrowding the real reason?

A large group of parents protesting sexually explicit books in the district’s libraries prompted the fire marshal to suspend a Michigan school board meeting Monday. But was overcrowding the real reason?

The Dearborn Board of Education meeting was forced to end when the fire marshal determined there was a fire code violation with too many people in the room. The alleged overcrowding may have been just one sign of how earnestly parents wanted to be heard on the issue.

But they may have been heard too loudly: Fox News reports the meeting ended due to overcrowding only after booing parents were admonished by board President Roxanne McDonald that, “We will not boo, we will not jeer. You can clap if you’d like, and you’ll listen to the speaker.”

Even the fire chief, who might be expected to merely count heads, reportedly exclaimed, “We can have a spirited debate, but we can’t conduct ourselves this way.”

Parents had showed up to the Board of Education meeting to peacefully protest books they found offensive, which were removed from school libraries last month, local news reported.

The removed books, however, are set to be reviewed, re-evaluated and possibly put back onto bookshelves, which frustrated the crowd.

District officials said six books recently pulled from school libraries will go through a recently instituted review process. If school staff doesn’t find the books offensive, they will return to the shelves for students to check out. 

The controversial books are Push by Sapphire; All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson; The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold; Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell; Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston; and This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson.

Dearborn Public Schools Communications Director David Mustonen reiterated several times throughout the meeting that parents can opt their children out of reading books they find offensive. He also repeated that parents don’t have a right to make that decision for other children.

The crowd said the books should stay removed, though. “Vote them out!” some parents chanted of school board members who don’t share the parents’ concerns.

Local police were present to ensure the protestors remained peaceful.

“This isn’t an LGBTQ issue. This is about sexually explicit books, pornography in the classrooms,” one parent told another local news outlet.

“Until there’s closure in the matter, until parents are heard, until our demands and our concerns do not fall on deaf ears, this will continue to escalate,” said another parent.