Some people are apparently out for unicorn blood in Ohio. Parents in the Buckeye Valley School District near Columbus reportedly mobilized last week to ban the children’s book “It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn.”
The funny, upbeat book with colorful unicorns (and a rainbow) lets kids know it’s OK to be themselves — which the book’s detractors apparently viewed as a subversive message.
Author Jason Tharp said a school principal told him last week that he could no longer read the book at a local school event as scheduled. A teacher said they were ordered to remove student artwork related to it from the walls.
Tharp later received an email from district officials telling him he could also no longer read his book “It’s Okay to Smell Good” (about a skunk) during his visit, he told WBNS-TV news.
A handful of parents turned up for a school district emergency meeting on Friday about the unicorn book — however, they all reportedly wanted the book to stay.
“So why couldn’t we read a book with a rainbow on it?” asked one disgusted parent, who also teaches in the district. (Check out the video below.)
Interim District School Superintendent Jeremy Froehlich told WBNS that officials “just wanted to make sure that we vetted the book” and claimed that only a single parent had complained.
Froelich did not say when the book would be “vetted” and if it will ever be allowed back in the classroom.
Another local outlet, WSYX, reported that a group of parents were upset that the book was promoting LGBTQ issues. The district denied that the book was banned in a statement to WSYX and said “all student artwork will be displayed.”
But Tharp disputed that and said he was not allowed to read the book. “I never in a million years thought I’d have to defend a unicorn book,” he told WBNS.
The conflict was apparently triggered by the book’s bright colors and an image of a rainbow. “Slap a rainbow on anything these days,” Tharp said, according to WBNS, and some people immediately view it as a reference to the LGBTQ community. He said his book wasn’t specifically about being gay.
“I’m here to create books that inspire kids to dream big and embrace themselves,” Tharp said.
“I think a book can save people, because that’s [what] saved me,” he added. “I got lost in books, and [they] taught me that it was OK to be creative, and it was OK to think differently. So that was what my mission was with this book — to write something that helped kids understand it is good that you’re different than me ... because we can learn something from each other.”
Michelle Mauk, who works for the district, was stunned the book triggered a conflict.
“It’s highly disappointing because there’s absolutely no reason for it,” Mauk told WSYX. “Inclusion is a wonderful thing.”
Watch an interview with author Jason Tharp at the top of this post.