UPDATED to include School Board officials comments.
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Elmbrook Schools could face a lawsuit for its online library of “sexually explicit” materials that a district parent says are offered to children as young as 3rd grade.
The controversial content reportedly includes a book explaining how sex apps work and a publication featuring full-body nude illustrations of a young boy engaged in masturbation.
The school board’s president and vice president have since issued a statement insisting that the content has never been available to elementary school students, but they acknowledge middle schoolers have had access to the books.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) issued a demand letter to Elmbrook Schools urging administrators remove the sexually explicit materials available through the district’s online library. The Milwaukee-based civil rights law firm, which is representing a group of concerned parents, claims Elmbrook is violating parents’ constitutional rights.
Recently, the parent of a 16-year-old Elmbrook student used that student’s school-issued Chromebook to access Sora, a school-sponsored app that makes available Elmbrook’s ebook and audiobook collection to students “for all levels – preschool to adult,” according to WILL. The parent confirmed access to sexually explicit material.
Elmbrook Schools’ offering of the “educational” content violates the law in some fundamental ways, according to the demand letter.
State law closely regulates human growth and development instruction in public schools. The law requires all instruction be “age appropriate,” which the identified materials clearly are not.
“Elmbrook’s decision to provide these sexually explicit materials, outside of the statutorily permitted human growth and development instruction, undermines these basic parental constitutional rights,” a press release from WILL states.
Elmbrook Superintendent Mark Hansen could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. But Elmbrook School Board President Scott Wheeler and Vice President Jean Lambert did issue a statement denying the allegations.
“These books were never available for our elementary school students despite media statements to the contrary. The circulation of these books in our middle school libraries and on SORA will be suspended until the District has reviewed access and parental reporting capabilities at a future Teaching & Learning Committee meeting,” the letter to community members states.
As the Daily Wire reported Tuesday, the offerings include a book that describes traditional views on marriage as “ignorant.” The publication reported that children as young as 8 can access a publication titled, “This Book Is Gay,” which offers a how-to on using Grindr and other sex apps.
Another book, “Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens,” offers students an in-depth analysis of anal sex, oral sex, one-night stands, and “vaginal sex with dildos.”
“What I have a problem with is that our school district’s curation of this sexually charged content in the online school library trespasses on a parent’s right to draw boundaries around the age, environment, context, and point of view from which this kind of sexual information is exposed, shared, described, interpreted, and understood,” Wendy Dorn, an Elmbrook parent activist told The Daily Wire.
School board leadership assert parents and guardians have access to both print and digital circulations, and they “encourage parents to work with their students to gain circulation transparency.” They also say the school board has a policy for selection of library materials.
“If complaints are made about materials, our Controversial Issues Policy 6144 is to be followed. At a future Teaching and Learning Committee meeting, the policy that guides the selection of instructional material for our libraries will be reviewed and modified as necessary,” the board president and vice president wrote.
“The power of books allows a reader to walk in someone else’s shoes, cultivate empathy and social and societal awareness. We promote, encourage, and support reading as a path to individual learning and a deeper understanding of the world, but we never assume every book is the right choice for every child or every family,” Wheeler and Lambert added.
In its letter to the district, WILL asserts that downloading or viewing these electronic titles appears to evade Elmbrook’s parent-oversight program called Securly. Parents report that when a student uses Sora to search for sexually explicit materials, those searches and downloads are not reported to parents via Securly.
WILL’s letter makes the following demands of the Elmbrook School District.
- Elmbrook should investigate and publicly identify all sexually explicit materials currently available to students through the Sora app or in libraries and provide an accounting for which sexually explicit materials were available in the recent past.
- Elmbrook should remove all sexually explicit materials that are available outside the district’s official human growth and development instruction.
- Elmbrook should ensure that Securly, or some other parent-oversight app, is available to allow parents to know whether their children are searching or downloading sexually explicit materials from an Elmbrook-sponsored site.
- Elmbrook employees should be trained in compliance with Wisconsin state law on the topics of human growth, development and sexuality.
- Superintendent Hansen should apologize to taxpayers, parents, and students for offering this sexually explicit material to children who have been entrusted to Elmbrook’s care.