Dearborn School Board Chaos as Muslim Parents Clash With LGBTQ+ Speakers

Chaos broke out at two school board meetings this week when conservative Muslim parents tried to ban LGBTQ+-affirming books from schools in Dearborn, Michigan.

On Monday, hundreds of angry parents at a board meeting voiced their opposition to allegedly sexually explicit LGBTQ+ books. After the parents refused to calm down, the meeting was ended. Although the venue was heavily policed, the parents ignored law enforcement officers' requests and booed and jeered speakers advocating for the books.

"We don't see the educational merit in these books," some parents reportedly said, according to Firstpost, a news site based in India.

The disputed books are in media centers across Dearborn Public Schools, Michigan's third-largest district, and they include This Book Is Gay, a nonfiction bestseller on sexuality and gender. Census data shows that about 47 percent of Dearborn's population consists of Arab Americans, many of whom are Muslim, according to Firstpost.

A protester uses the book "A History of Gay Rights" as a surface to sketch on during a demonstration at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, New York, on July 25, 2020. Twice this week, Muslim parents in Dearborn, Michigan, got into a heated debate with the school board over LGBTQ+ books in school libraries. Ira Black/Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

At the school board's resumed meeting on Thursday, the room was packed with mostly Muslim parents, some holding signs calling for the books to be banned. One sign read "Homosexuality is a big sin," Firstpost reported.

A video of the meeting, which was tweeted by Detroit Free Press reporter Niraj Warikoo, shows Brian Stone, a communications specialist who is part of the LGBTQ community, being booed and jeered off the stage. Other speakers, including a nonbinary guest, received similar treatment from the crowd. Boos also followed a mention of U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is Muslim, the Free Press reported.

Newsweek reached out to the Dearborn school board for comment.

Some Republicans have joined the debate, showing support for the Muslim parents. Republican efforts to ban books with LGBTQ+ themes from school bookshelves have occurred across the country.

Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock and Steven Elliott, a Republican who is running against Tlaib in November's election, have supported the Muslim protesters in Dearborn, Axios reported.

Muslim advocates have also joined the debate. The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights group, handed out flyers informing parents at Monday's meeting of their religious and parental rights, Axios said. Newsweek has reached out to CAIR for comment.

Other Muslims support the books' availability in schools. Earlier this week, Muslim leaders and American Federation of Teachers members released a joint statement. It said: "Everyone believes that our schools and classrooms should be safe, welcoming, and supportive environments that are free from discrimination and bullying of any kind...and that includes young people who identify as LGBTQ."

The statement continued: "Having resources and books in our classrooms and libraries that speak to the diversity of our students and the broader world we share is critical to providing a quality and supportive education."

The Dearborn district said that four out of six books pulled from a school library had LGBTQ+ themes in them, according to Firstpost, and that online access to the books has been restricted.