School board candidate Chuck Basye takes aim at teen graphic novel while other candidates pushback

School board candidate Chuck Basye talks with supporters on March 20, 2023, before the start of a candidate forum in Cornell Hall at the University of Missouri.
School board candidate Chuck Basye talks with supporters on March 20, 2023, before the start of a candidate forum in Cornell Hall at the University of Missouri.

School board candidate Chuck Basye on Monday targeted the award-winning graphic novel "Flamer" by Mike Curato for its language, saying it's not appropriate to have in school libraries.

Basye, at the beginning of the candidate forum hosted by, said anti-LGBTIQA+ slurs in the book make the book inappropriate. He again mentioned it at the end of the forum.

The forum was held in Cornell Hall's Bush Auditorium at the University of Missouri.

The school board candidates are Basye, Paul Harper, John Potter, Chris Horn, James Gordon, John Lyman and April Ferrao. The top three vote-getters on April 4 will win three-year terms on the Columbia Board of Education.

"Flamer" won the Lambda Literary Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature in 2021. It also has been the target of book bans in Florida and elsewhere.

The book's main character is Aiden Navarro, a 14-year-old Catholic, Filipino-American Boy Scout with body issues. In the novel, Aiden comes to terms with the fact that he's gay. The gay slurs his friends use hurt Aiden. The novel is semi-autobiographical.

In the book, it's other boys calling Aiden names to which Basye objected.

"There's a lot of things in this book that's available to kids in middle school," Basye said.

He received some pushback from a few fellow candidates.

"Books like 'Flamer' have been around forever," said candidate John Lyman.

When he was in school, it was "A Bundle of Sticks" by Pat Mauser McCord, he said.

And from James Gordon: "There are people raising salacious details to try to scare us,"

"Let's stop trying to take things away from kids," said Paul Harper.

The book is in middle school and high school libraries in Columbia Public Schools, said Kerry Townsend, district library media specialist coordinator.

"A candidate has selected a few pages in order to highlight some aspects of the book," Townsend said by phone on Tuesday. "The book as a whole is much different from what was shared."

Students can check the book out of the libraries if they choose to, Townsend said. It's not part of lessons or read in classes.

"It's a beautifully drawn book," Townsend said. "It's very real. "I think it provides students a window to allow them to understand a part of the world they don't understand and also to see themselves reflected in the book."

The book was determined to be developmentally appropriate for middle and high school students, Townsend said.

"There are curse words, but they're authentic to the experiences that teen boys have," Townsend said.

The influence of the teacher's union was another issue addressed by the candidates with moderator Mike Murphy noting that all current school board members were endorsed by the union, the Columbia Missouri National Education Association.

It's not a golden ticket to winning the election, said Lyman. He said getting the union endorsement didn't cause him to stop campaigning.

Horn, who was endorsed by the union in 2020 but not this year, said he wants to break the cycle.

"Support for our teachers is support for our students," said Gordon.

The union is responsible for negotiating for better pay and working conditions for teachers and it was useful for her to attend two collective bargaining sessions to learn how the process works, Ferrao said.

The union has failed with shutdowns and forced masking during the pandemic, Potter said.

"They failed the teachers and the students," Potter said.

Roger McKinney is the Tribune's education reporter. You can reach him at or 573-815-1719.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Basye targets "Flamer," also a target of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis