St. Joseph, Missouri school district libraries contain obscene books in apparent violation of state law

A Missouri school district may be committing multiple felonies by offering obscene, pornographic books to students.

The St. Joseph School District (SJSD) offers at least 9 books to students which…

A Missouri school district may be committing multiple felonies by offering obscene, pornographic books to students.

The St. Joseph School District (SJSD) offers at least 9 books to students which appear to violate Missouri’s obscenity laws, according to an analysis by The Lion of a list of all the district’s library books, obtained through a Sunshine request.

According to Missouri statute, it is a felony to “wholesale promote any obscene material,” particularly “any material pornographic for minors.”

It can also be a felony to furnish pornographic materials to minors or display sexually explicit materials within public view.

Several of SJSD’s books appear to violate these laws. The most obvious examples are excerpted below, and readers should be warned: The passages are graphic and disturbing. 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison was written for ages 14 and up, but several attempts have already been made to ban it from U.S. schools and libraries due to its sexually explicit content.

One particularly graphic passage portrays a girl, 11, being raped and impregnated by her own father:

“The tightness of her vagina was more than he could bear. His shoulder seemed to slip down to his guts and fly out into her and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made – a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat […] Removing himself from her was so painful to him he cut it short and snatched his genitals out of the dry harbor of her vagina. She appeared to have fainted. Cholly stood up and could see only her grayish panties, so sad and limp around her ankles.”

Looking for Alaska by John Green, a coming-of-age story about boarding school students, also contains sexually graphic language, pornography and substance abuse. It is available to students as young as 11 in SJSD middle schools.

In one scene, the main characters watch a pornographic movie:

“It opened with a woman standing on a bridge with her legs spread while a guy knelt in front of her, giving her oral sex. No time for dialogue, I suppose. By the time they started doing it, Alaska commenced with her righteous indignation. ‘They just don’t make sex look fun for women. The girl is just an object. Look! Look at that!’”

All Boys Aren’t Blue is a “memoir-manifesto” by George M. Johnson about Black homosexuality and “queer identities,” depicting sex, incest and rape.  

“I remember the condom was blue and flavored like cotton candy,” one excerpt says. “I put some lube on and got him up on his knees, and I began to slide into him from behind. I tried not to force it because I imagined that would be painful; I didn’t want this moment to be painful. So I eased in, slowly, until I heard him moan.”

Another passage reads: 

“As we kissed, he began unzipping my pants. It was clear to me in this moment that he wasn’t new to this.

“He reached his hand down and pulled out my dick. He quickly went to giving me head. I just sat back and enjoyed it as I could tell he was, too. […] He then came up and asked me if I wanted to try on him. I said sure. I began and he said, ‘Watch your teeth.’ I didn’t want to let him know I was inexperienced. So, I slowed down and took my time and luckily got into a good rhythm.

“He didn’t know I was a virgin, and I did my best to act dominant like my favorite porn star. I was an actor, and this was my movie.”

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is about a transgender teen named Amanda, formerly Andrew, dating a boy her father doesn’t approve of. Its target audience is middle schoolers.  

One scene reads

“His fingers brushed the bottom of my stomach. I wanted them there, but years of terror made me brush his hand away. After a moment, I gently took his wrist and put his fingers back where they had been. His hand moved up farther, and then he had the hem of my shirt in both hands, and he was lifting it […] I closed my eyes and tossed my shirt aside with trembling hands. We came together again and his hands were everywhere, on my back and sides and stomach and tracing my ribs. He reached behind me and, without breaking the kiss, started to unclasp my bra.”

Crank is a novel by Ellen Hopkins about a teenage girl who experiences drug addiction, rape, and teen pregnancy. It also portrays other mature content such as attempted suicide. Its target audience is students as young as 14, but since it is in Spring Garden Middle School, it is accessible to students as young as 11.

One graphic scene reads:  

“Kisses segued to bites. Bruises. Pain rippled through my body. ‘Brendan, please stop.’  

“‘No. You promised, You damn little tease.’ 

“Off came my shorts. Down went his zipper. I realized I was in serious trouble. ‘I’ll scream.’  

“‘Go ahead. No one can hear but skunks and coyotes.’ 

“Still, as I opened my mouth, his hand slapped down on it.” 

Tricks is also by Ellen Hopkins and depicts the prostitution of five troubled teenagers. It also portrays rape and other examples of sexual, drug and alcohol abuse.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, written for middle schoolers, is the story of a teenage girl who commits suicide and the thirteen people to whom she posthumously sent recordings, holding them responsible. The story includes suicide, rape and sexual assault, references to sex toys, as well as drugs, alcohol and smoking.

A nearly 30% increase in youth suicide rates was associated with the release of the television adaptation of the book.

And Tango Makes Three is a children’s book for 2 to 5-year-olds about two male penguins who adopt a female chick. It was written by Justin Richardson, a clinical psychiatrist specializing in sexual development and parenting, and his husband, Peter Parnell. Like the fictional penguins, Richardson and Parnell share a daughter.

The ABC’s of LGBT+ by Ash Hardell – formerly Ashley Mardell – is a nearly 200-page guidebook to sex, gender, gender expression, and sexual and romantic orientations including fluid attractions, multiple gender attractions and asexual identities.  

It’s designed for readers aged 12 to 16. 

Besides these books, there are many more at SJSD which may be considered inappropriate for students, even if they don’t contain graphic, pornographic scenes.

For example, This Book is Anti-Racist is a manual on social justice activism geared toward children as young as 10, and has been criticized as unsuitable for minors in districts around the country.

Written by Tiffany Jewell, it teaches readers that anyone who is white, upper-middle-class, cisgender, male, educated, athletic, neurotypical and/or able-bodied is a part of the “dominant culture.”  

It also suggests readers keep a notebook of microaggressions they witness, record police interactions with black men on their phone, and accuse people who say they don’t “see color” of supporting “the dominant culture of white supremacy.” 

In recent years, Missouri officials, including the attorney general and secretary of state, have opened investigations, filed lawsuits, and made rules to protect children from sexual abuse, including gender-altering medicine and exposure to obscene materials.

U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt, while Attorney General of Missouri, subpoenaed seven school district in in 2022 over potential violations of Missouri law related to districts surveying students, including about their sexuality, without parental consent.

More recently, current Attorney General Andrew Bailey opened an investigation into a transgender clinic at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, run by Washington University, after a whistleblower revealed how minors with mental health issues were rushed into irreversible hormone treatments and gender transitions.

The hospital eventually stopped prescribing hormone treatments in August, after a new Missouri law went into effect banning such medical intervention.

Bailey also filed a lawsuit against the university in December “for failing to hand over documents they had previously agreed to provide to his office amidst his investigation into their pediatric transgender clinic.”

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has also moved to protect children from sexual content in libraries, enacting a rule last year to require public libraries receiving state funds to create and follow policies for protecting minors from accessing adult-themed content without parental consent.