Casper School Board Asks For Police To Intervene After Teacher Gets Called ‘Pedophile’ In Book Debate

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Explicit content: The following story and photos depict mature subject matter. Cowboy State Daily gently blurred nude images, but in the original books, both available at Kelly Walsh High School, the nude images are generally uncensored. Read at your own discretion.

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A contentious crowd at the Natrona County School Board meeting Monday traded barbs, with a City Council candidate calling a substitute teacher a “pedophile” and others calling concerned parents book-banners.   

The controversy stems from a district-appointed panel’s decision last month to keep the books “Gender Queer” and “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” in the Kelly Walsh High School library in Casper. Cowboy State Daily reviewed and roughly summarized both books Sept. 29.   

The school board may have to review the books and decide their fate if an appeal against them is filed, but no appeal had been filed as of Tuesday, according to the district’s spokeswoman. The books’ detractors told the board Monday that the appeal policy is unclear.



‘Pedophilia’ Claims  

Stephen Delger, a substitute teacher for the school district and a self-described conservative, addressed the board, saying he read “Gender Queer” and didn’t know why people are calling it pornographic.   

“I’ve seen pornography, I’m ashamed to say, when I was a young man. I know what it is and this isn’t it,” he said, adding that those attempting to remove the books are “marginaliz(ing) students that are questioning.”  

Delger warned against “banning books,” asking “where does that stop?”  

Eric Paulson, who is running for Casper City Council, spoke up after Delger and accused him of pedophilia.   

“That’s who is advocating for (keeping the books),” said Paulson. “People who think 13, and 12 and other minor children are ‘discovering themselves.’ You literally just had a pedophile come and talk to you who told us he’s a substitute teacher.”  

Kelly Walsh High School generally serves students aged 14-18.

Delger responded, challenging Paulson. 

“He openly told you he wants young children discovering who they are right now,” Paulson said.   

The board called for its attending police officer to intervene and for Paulson’s microphone to be removed. 

As he lost his microphone, Paulson directed a parting shot at Delger: “OK, groomer.”  


Pages from “Gender Queer,” a book in the Kelly Walsh High School library.

Rimming, Fisting, Sounding  

The rest of the meeting’s public comment segment was more civil, but just as impassioned. The board heard from members of the LGBTQ community, from victims of childhood sexual abuse, parents, counselors and political candidates.   

Kara Hopkins, a 19-year-old Casper resident, held up a copy of “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves,” and read from it.   

“Hopefully (this) should be appropriate, if we have 14-year-olds reading it,” said Hopkins.   

“There are many different ways to use our mouths to lick, suck, or penetrate someone,” she said, reading aloud. “Depending on our partner’s anatomy there may be lots of parts for us to suck. Any that points away from or hangs down from the body can go into our mouths. Analingus, also known as rimming, is performing oral sex on the anus. Lots of people enjoy it. Fisting is when the whole hand is inserted into the body; it can provide a very pleasurable sense of fullness and pressure in either the anus, or a front hole.”  

Hopkins continued: “Penetrative anal sex can be very enjoyable and comes with the added bonus that all of us have this part on our bodies. Sounding, or inserting objects into the urethra is most commonly done by those of us whose urethra opening is located on the tip of our external genitals.   

“Many of us have had fantasies that involve power, domination, submissive or role dynamics, such as teacher/student, boss and employee. Many people think of these as just fantasies and never realize that such scenarios can be safely and responsibly acted out in real life.”   

Hopkins also read a portion on working as a sex worker: “For some of us it might be something we feel good (about) or enjoy.” 



Better Than Google  

Erica Vander, a mother with two kids in the school district and one who is a recent graduate of it, said it’s “ignorant to judge the contents of these books without the whole context,” and noted that “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” contains hundreds of pages of detailed research, including fair portrayal of the “legal and mental health repercussions of transgender health and relationships.”   

“If one were to Google the information, much more graphic and less accurate information would be presented,” she said, calling the book’s pictures “similar to a biology sex education textbook.”   

Vander theorized that the community’s outrage was not regarding the books’ sexual depictions, but was actually “about the LGBTQ community.”   

She challenged the community to adjust to new and uncomfortable ideas as, she said, she once had to do to integrate LGBTQ acceptance into her childhood religious beliefs.   

Manure In The Pie  

Erin Westminster, a nurse in Casper, countered Vander, saying that “pornographic” books can’t be redeemed by their other contents when minors are in question. She said as a nurse, she could lecture the board on the effects of “pornography” on children and their dopamine receptors, but didn’t have time in the three minutes allotted for each commenter.   

“If I were to bake you a pie, and put in two teaspoons of manure, would you really want to eat that pie?” she asked. “Even if you took the majority of that book and it wasn’t (pornographic), the parts that are, are still there, and they do affect a child.”   

Another speaker, Darcie Gudger, said the issue is not about LGBTQ representation.   

“Why the push for explicit sexual content?” she asked. “If it’s truly about representation, why don’t we have stories of members of the LGBTQ community or other minority groups acting in a heroic way (instead)?”   

Gudger said “representation” is possible to achieve in a “wholesome” way.   

“I don’t care if a kid identifies as a penguin – make it the best-educated penguin in America,” she said.   


Pages from “Gender Queer,” a book in the Kelly Walsh High School library.

Low Traffic  

Kelby Eisenman, an 18-year-old Natrona County High School senior using he/him pronouns, testified to being “exhausted by the trivialness of the conversation over books; two novels that have not been checked out over 30 times in the recorded past.”  

“Gender Queer” is a graphic novel; “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” is not a novel, but a textbook-style compilation.   

When the reconsideration committee reviewed the books in mid-August, “Gender Queer” had been checked out 16 times since it was acquired in 2019. “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” had been checked out twice since it was acquired in February 2017.   

The reconsideration committee members are unnamed in their Sept. 30 report on the books, except for the committee chair, Dr. Charlotte Gilbar.   

Gilbar also is the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the school district.   

Eisenman said reading the books makes no difference toward one’s sexual orientation.   

“I have never read ‘Gender Queer,’” said Eisenman. “I am still gay.”   

Eisenman discussed how it feels to attend the former high school of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was tortured and murdered in 1998.  

“This (book removal attempt is being) carried out by this organization to erase my identity,” said Eisenman, adding, “The end goal of this extreme group is to completely forbid the existence of minorities in our schools, and ultimately in our society.”   

‘Scary New Concepts’  

Archie Pettry, a counselor in Casper, said the book detractors are frightened of “scary new concepts being available to their children.”   

“There have been many scary new concepts presented to children through the years that were proclaimed as moral degradations to society, including interracial marriage, women’s voting rights,” he said. “Any time a group has progress in civil liberties, there are people who look at it as, ‘this must mean something’s being taken away from me.’”  

Pettry said as a counselor he’s seen “far more children harmed” by not being exposed to sexual explainers than by being exposed to them.  

Sexual Content  

Renea Redding, a candidate for the Natrona County School Board, said the books’ detractors aren’t trying to erase anyone’s identity or propagate a fear of alternate lifestyles.   

“Fear? Fear of what?” she asked. “I wouldn’t want any kid – LGBTQ+ or heterosexual – exposed to any sexual content. So I don’t know where you’re coming from.”   

Redding also said that since “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” has been checked out so few times, it shouldn’t still be in the library under the library’s policy of discarding unpopular books.   

Nightmares  

A woman who identified herself only as Marlene, 66, said that she’s a retired law enforcement officer of 20 years and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Her husband, who is almost 70, also is a childhood sexual abuse survivor, she said.   

“What these books do are make our children vulnerable to trafficking, to abuse to things they should never have to encounter,” said Marlene. “And I can tell you from the bottom of my heart those scars never go away. … (My husband) still has nightmares. I still have nightmares.”   

Marlene addressed the board, saying she would be “devastated if any (of her grandchildren) or any of your children or grandchildren had to endure any of those victimizations because they were made vulnerable.”



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