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‘Under his eye’: Student hands superintendent banned book at graduation

‘Under his eye’: Student hands superintendent banned book at graduation

  • PublishedJune 2, 2024

During graduation at the Idaho Fine Arts Academy, a student tried handing a copy of “The Handmaid’s Tale” to the superintendent.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Because of a national agenda, and far right outrage, dozens of “questionable” books have been removed from library shelves in Idaho over the last couple of years.

More than twenty in Nampa schools, ten in West Ada Schools, to name a couple high-profile instances.

This was before Idaho lawmakers decided to put a possible fine on libraries. Where a child who checks out such material, or if it’s not removed, they and their parents could sue the library for $250, plus damages.

In both public and school libraries.

So, to avoid any hassle, a lot of libraries just removed a lot of books.

One recent high school graduate said they had enough of not having a say as a student about what books would be available in her library.

Which is why she decided to make a statement. One that would have likely remained among the small gathering for the Idaho Fine Arts Academy Graduation, were it not for social media.

The graduation ceremony at the academy for the class of 2024 was a lot like dozens of others taking place around Idaho these last couple of weeks. A lot of the same pomp, just smaller circumstances.

At this small school, only 44 seniors would walk across the stage to get their diploma. One of those students had something up her sleeve. Annabelle Jenkins said she has always been into books.

“In middle school I spent a lot of time in the teen space back there,” she said. “The rule was I could only bring home as many books as my age.”

Jenkins said at her local library she volunteers more than anyone who isn’t retired.

“So, this place means a lot to me and libraries in general, I realize these are the types of spaces I want to spend my life protecting and curating,” Jenkins said.

She picked up this crusade in earnest last fall, when, she said, she heard a teacher arguing with the school librarian. 

“It was over the graphic novel the handmaid’s tale and I was just so shocked because I had never seen school staff behave that way in a school setting,” she said.

She said she was also shocked, because the book was so important to her and her classmates.

“It is a book with a lot of heavy themes and it has some very difficult scenes to get through it deals with a lot of sexual themes. I believe the word I heard being tossed around that book is pornographic which I very strongly disagree with,” Jenkins said. “My main issue is the teacher that was contesting it had not read the book.”

She said that she read the book during her sophomore year of high school.

“I think the graphic novel is a tasteful way of adapting it and that’s not to say there aren’t scenes in there that may be difficult for some students or some readers I don’t think it’s a reason for it to be banned,” Jenkins said.

Removed is the word the West Ada School District uses. They “removed” ten books last December, including “The Handmaid’s Tale (Graphic Novel).” The books were pulled after a private meeting of administrators. In an email the district said their decision aligns with the recent library law passed by the Idaho legislature.

Jenkins said what she did at graduation was because of how she and her fellow students were not allowed to be part of the removal process. 

“How we’ve been treated and ignored, I realize that I did not want to walk across that stage and get my diploma and shake the superintendent’s hand I just did not want to do that,” she said.

So instead, she decided to do this.

“When I got up there and I got the book out, and he wouldn’t take it,” she said.

She said when he wouldn’t take it she dropped the book at Superintendent Derek Bub’s feet. She believes it may have added more fuel to the fire.

 “It was a gesture, if you want to make a bigger show of it be my guest,” Jenkins said.

How much of a show was it? That night, she posted her gesture on TikTok, thinking it would only be shared by friends and family. However, that 12 second video has been seen and liked by many millions of people.

“I wake up in the morning to my dad shaking me and saying your TikTok has a million views and I went what do you mean it has a million views,” she said. “It has blown up.”

She said she is not usually one to stir the pot and that she is not particularly outspoken. 

“I don’t like to be the center of attention or do things to get a reaction. I want people to know it is very important to me,” Jenkins said. “This is something deeply, deeply important to me.”

Her video is the only one of the graduation that is still up. The West Ada School District removed their video blaming Jenkins. Claiming her gesture, “overshadowed the celebratory occasion for the class of 2024.”

Jenkins doesn’t see it that way.

“My goal was never to be disruptive or mess up the ceremony and I really don’t believe that I did,” she said. “At the end of the day I think that was my time on stage and that was my moment and that was something important for me to do.”

She said she is just glad that people are talking about it.

“This is an issue that we can no longer ignore,” Jenkins said. “Because if we do it’s just going to silently move along until it’s at a worse place than we can imagine.”

KTVB reached out to see about asking Dr. Bub about what happened last week. We were told he wasn’t available. We were also told the video of the graduation will be available by the end of the week at the latest. Not sure if it will be an edited version or not.

“So what happened to the book? Jenkins told us she has no idea.

If you happen to stumble upon “The Handmaid’s Tale (Graphic Novel)” in a used book store, she told us she wrote an inscription on the inside cover.

 She wrote, she hoped Dr. Bub enjoyed the book and added a quote from New York Times’ best selling young adult author Ellen Hopkins:

 “Torch every book, burn every page, char every word to ash. Ideas are incombustible and therein lies your real fear.”

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