Des Plaines District 62 candidates oppose book-banning efforts

As conservative activists and lawmakers push to remove books that address racial issues and the LGBTQ community from classrooms across the country, all five candidates for seats on the Des Plaines School District 62 board say they oppose such censorship.

Four of the board hopefuls made their stand in a joint online interview with the Daily Herald on Monday: incumbents Tina Garrett, Elizabeth Massa and Beth Morley and challenger Gene Haring.

A fifth candidate, challenger Patrick Maag, canceled his appearance but spoke about the issue in email.

The candidates were asked what they thought of efforts to restrict student access to books about gender, sexual and racial identity.

In the Chicago suburbs, the inclusion of Maia Kobabe's graphic-novel memoir "Gender Queer" in school libraries and on student reading lists prompted heated debates in Barrington Community Unit District 220, Downers Grove High School District 99 and Antioch Community High School District 117.

Haring, an independent marketing specialist who formerly was a spokesman for the Des Plaines Park District, said he opposes limiting anyone's access to books.

"Any attempt to ban or exclude (books) is going to hurt our kids now and for the rest of their lives," he said.

Morley called the book-removal efforts "reprehensible."

"I don't think any student should be banned from reading any book," said Morley, a senior project manager with a health and welfare fund who joined the board in 2015.

Children should learn about the world, Morley said, and that can be done through reading.

Garrett, an insurance agent who was appointed to the board in 2017 and elected to a full term in 2019, also opposed book-banning efforts but said it isn't an issue in District 62.

"We trust our teachers to pick the appropriate books for our students," she said.

Massa, who was appointed to the board in 2021 and is running for her first full term, opined that banning a book "is the quickest way to getting a kid to read it."

Books about the LGBTQ or Black communities or the issues they face can 'provide a teachable moment' for kids, said Massa, a former teacher who's now a stay-at-home parent.

Maag was asked about book restrictions and other issues via email.

A teacher, Maag said he supports the LGBTQ and Black communities and wants to see more books about and by its members.

"My position would be to provide more support and inclusion to all groups and to push for more empathy, diversity and culturally responsive education in our district," Maag said.

Election Day is April 4. Early voting begins March 20 in suburban Cook County.

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All five candidates for seats on the Des Plaines School District 62 board oppose efforts to ban books because of racial or LGBTQ-related content. Courtesy of District 62
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