MA police chief apologizes for search of middle school for LGBTQ book

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MA police chief apologizes for search of middle school for LGBTQ book

Great Barrington Police Chief Paul Storti apologized after an officer searched the W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School for a copy of "Gender Queer: A Memoir," an illustrated book on gender identity. The book has been banned in other districts.

On Dec. 8, a Great Barrington Police Department plainclothes officer visited the school to look for the book after the department received a complaint about "concerning illustrations," the Boston Globe reported.

Storti told they were "obligated and have a duty to examine the complaint further."

In a Facebook statement on Thursday, the chief apologized "to anyone who was negatively [affected] by our involvement at the WEB Dubois Middle School."

"Over the years, our relationship with our schools has been positive and collaborative, so together we worked with the school to try to navigate this sensitive situation," he said. "If our involvement caused distrust and alarm, that was not our intention. I promise you our actions were not meant to disenfranchise anyone or influence school curriculum."

"Gender Queer: A Memoir," by nonbinary author Maia Kobabe, tells Kobabe's story from adolescence to adulthood and recounts the author's exploration of gender identity.

In a letter to the district, Berkshire Hills Regional School District Superintendent Peter Dillon and School Committee Chair Stephen Bannon said the district "does not support banning books."

"Also, we are committed to ensuring that all students feel safe as we support an inclusive environment at our schools," "The recent incident at the middle school has challenged and impacted our community...Faced with an unprecedented police investigation of what should be a purely educational issue, we tried our best to serve the interests of students, families, teachers, and staff. In hindsight, we would have approached that moment differently. We are sorry. We can do better to refine and support our existing policies. We are committed to supporting all our students, particularly vulnerable populations."

The district said it will hold several meetings so community members can discuss the incident, including at a scheduled School Committee meeting on Jan. 11.