By Anna K. Miller, Sam Dorman and Scott Yenor
Leadership within the West Ada school district has offered a misleading and evasive set of answers — including outright contradictions — regarding the circulation of two pornographic books that promote radical ideas about gender.
We have been told that one of these books was in circulation, then that it was not in circulation, and then that it “technically” was and the deputy superintendent was providing “misinformation.” We were later told the book wasn’t in circulation again and then that it was in circulation but not available. We have been told that it was not available because it was lost and then that it was checked out by the librarian.
Last, we discovered for ourselves that the librarian is a radical activist who brags about pushing sexual liberation on students in Centennial High School.
The district has not gotten its story straight.
On December 23, Sam Dorman submitted a public records request asking for books that West Ada had purchased since December of 2019. The district responded on Feb. 8 with a document confirming the list of new books that were in circulation and lists of schools where each book was in circulation. The district later responded on Feb. 9 to a question about “how the circulation process works.” Chief of Staff Niki Scheppers said: “The schools listed are the schools with that title in their library.”
West Ada has repeatedly acknowledged that Let's Talk About It: The Teen's Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human and Trans+: love, sex, romance, and being you have been in circulation within the district, along with more than 50 others that promote explicit sexual material and “LGBTQ+” content. Scheppers’ email from February 9 and follow-up emails from her this week make this amply clear.
On Monday, February 20, we sought confirmation for these facts. Anna Miller asked Deputy Superintendent Nick Smith if he stood by the school district librarians decision to make these books available to minors. Smith said that the books were no longer in circulation.
This contradicted what Scheppers previously said, so we asked again via email as well as requesting records of the district’s handling of the initial records requests. In an email to Smith on Tuesday (timestamped 11:28 a.m.), Scheppers said that “Both books are technically ‘in circulation’ because they have been assigned schools and are still in our system as searchable.” That same day Smith contradicted Scheppers and doubled down on his misleading statement by telling Anna Miller via an email (timestamped 11:39 a.m.): “The books referenced in your email are no longer in circulation while they must have been in circulation at the time of the Public Records Request.”
On Wednesday, February 22, Scheppers said via email that Smith, who was “new to the district,” had provided “misinformation.”
Prior to IFF publishing the article on Tuesday, the school district said that particular book had been checked out with a fine being paid in June. On Wednesday, after the article was published, the district updated its comments and instead claimed that the book had been checked out by the librarian, who, we have discovered, is named Gena Marker. The librarian, they said, purchased it. The dates provided by West Ada show the librarian not checking the book out until a month after the library had acquired it.
According to the district, each book was purchased on April 22, 2022. Trans+ was checked out on Feb. 7, the day before West Ada provided the list of books still in circulation. Scheppers has told us that the book was “never returned” and assigned a “lost” status just two days later on Feb. 9. She added that a fine is currently pending and the book is under review by a “standing instructional committee” “as it goes through the challenge process.” It’s unclear why the district didn’t simply remove the book, which contains explicit content and advice on surgical “transitions.”
A subsequent email said instead that the book was due on Feb. 7, checked out on Jan. 6, and marked as lost on Feb. 9. Scheppers later said her initial email was mistaken about the checkout date.
However, none of these evasions explain why these radical pornographic books, along with more than 50 other problematic books, were purchased for use in West Ada school libraries in the first place. One potential reason is that the Centennial High School librarian, Gena Marker, is a left wing activist. Marker has handed pornographic books Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe and This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson to a teen at school and bragged about it.
When, last year, the legislature introduced House Bill 666 to stop librarians from giving obscene content to minors, Marker said, “It’s easy to feel personal despair in the wake of book challenges.” She continued, “I was seen as a peddler of pornography by providing access to these books,” snapshots of which are inset.
“Would I do this again in the name of intellectual freedom? You bet,” she said of her efforts to protect the titles. “Will I do this again in the near future? Most likely.”
Scheppers has said that Marker is responsible for removing Let's Talk About it from the school library. “Upon receipt, the school's librarian barcoded the text to note that it was received and put it in our online system, Destiny,” Scheppers said via email. “The librarian then checked out the book to review it. Upon reviewing the material, the librarian deemed the text inappropriate and purchased it from the school with their (sic) own money.” If the book already went through the district's review process before being acquired by the library, as it's supposed to, then why did a librarian need to check it out to make sure it was appropriate? Why would a librarian purchase a book herself instead of having the book undergo the formal challenge process of the district? Such a story can hardly be trusted, knowing that Marker is an activist who has a history of pushing disturbing books to minors. Less interested in intellectual freedom, she is interested in pushing this stuff on to kids she thinks need them.
Public school districts have an interest in protecting their districts and protecting their employees. But should Marker be protected? Should librarians be allowed to go rogue, if she did, and just buy books without following processes? Shouldn’t school district officials be serving the parents and students and not protecting activists who violate policy? Out of all the libraries in West Ada, Centennial’s appeared to be the worst in terms of including explicit and/or “LGBTQ+” content. Regardless, it’s worth asking: How many activist employees do West Ada libraries have?
We have been asked to believe that there is a new category of book: in circulation but not available. We are inclined to believe in Uhlmann’s Razor: when incompetence explains the actions of public officials, there is no need for more elaborate analysis. West Ada’s frustrating pile of evasions and contradictions, combined with the presence of an activist librarian who wants to push porn in her libraries, makes us think that something more is going on.