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A graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was permanently pulled from an Oregon high school’s library thanks to the district’s superintendent and his deputy who forced its removal after a committee couldn’t decide what to do about the book.
“We removed the graphic novel because…we found numerous images of nudity, sexual assault, and violence throughout the graphic novel,” Medford School District spokesperson Natalie Hurd told the Mail Tribune.
Superintendent Bret Champion and Superintendent Deputy Jeanne Graziol made the final call to remove two copies of the graphic novel from North Medford High School, Mail Tribune reported.
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the removal came after just one parent complained about sexual images in the book.
A special closed-door meeting was held in April to determine what to do with the book, but committee officials struggled to come to an agreement.
“Following the discussion at this meeting, there were two staff members that recommended removal, and at least one staff member that did not recommend removal,” Medford School District attorney Thad Pauck told the Mail Tribune.
“Since a consensus was not reached, all of the information provided at the meeting was brought to the deputy superintendent and superintendent for consideration of a final district decision.”
The book, an illustrative adaptation of Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, portrays a society in which women who can still bear children—the handmaids—are forced into pregnancy for the ruling class. Jewish women and women of color are not part of the program and are exiled. Women who do not abide by the system are brutally killed and put on public display.
“We determined [the adaptation] does not meet the needs of the school nor the needs of individual students,” Hurd emailed the Tribune, insisting the book’s illustrations are what officials found problematic. She added that students still had access to the original novel and copies of the graphic novel could be found at the local library, should students and parents want to read them.
Emily O’Neal, a co-chair of the Oregon Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, suggested the ban was akin to censorship.
“Graphic novels are known to be a special and important learning tool for…those that are having reading difficulties,” O’Neal said in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting. “If you think of folks that are reading-delayed or dyslexic, having that graphic novel version helps them gain context and better understand what it is that they’re reading. So, we actually do have some concern about equity in the removing of the graphic novel version of this title.”
“The ultimate area of concern is that it does seem like the material was removed due to the content. So it was a content-based restriction which, in library land, is censorship,” she added. “That’s the perfect definition of what we actively choose not to do, and believe it’s against the rights of Americans.”
The Daily Beast was unable to reach Superintendent Champion for comment.