Parents express discomfort at coloring book geared toward adults in CPS school classroom

By Sabrina Franza

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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — A coloring book for adults was shown to some middle schoolers at a CPS elementary school – and some parents say it shows too much.

As CBS 2’s Sabrina Franza reported, Chicago Public Schools rules do not require teachers to tell parents about books before they bring them into the classroom. But parents want to be part of the conversation.

“In dealing with another person’s child, a person shouldn’t just be given carte blanche to expose them to what they feel is right,” said Jason McElroy, a sixth-grade parent at Edgar Allan Poe Classical School, 10538 S. Langley Ave.

The Heartstopper Coloring Book by Alice Oseman and corresponding comic book are advertised online as being for adults. It tells the story of a couple named Nick and Charlie – and on the cover illustration for one edition, parents have pointed out that it looks as if Charlie’s hand might be down Nick’s pants.

The photos inside the coloring books are seemingly PG. The comic books bring up both alcohol and sex.

It is in more than one school. The students inside Poe Classical School are K-8.

“We already have enough with social media and the internet itself,” McElroy said. “This kind of makes it a little harder on parents trying to navigate and control what their children are exposed to.”

Parents say a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher’s classroom library had two Heartstopper books on display for students to read, and sixth grade students also had access to the library. The books were not assigned reading, and are not part of the curriculum.

Parents say the classroom also happens to be designed to be a safe space for students to explore their sexuality – part of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance.

As to the illustration on the cover, McElroy said: “If it were a man and a woman, I would still feel the same way. No.”

We asked to speak with the principal, who had planned to host a Thursday night to talk with parents about what is or is not appropriate at school. He was not able to talk with us.

We also asked an expert, who said the books can be a good teaching tool.

“I’ve had kids who come to my office confused, and they’re not ready to talk to their parents,” said Niranjan Karnik, director of the Institute for Juvenile Research and a child psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “They’re frightened to talk to their parents, and just want a trusted adult that they can talk with.”

CPS rules allow for challenges to library books. They say nothing about restrictions based on suggestive language; the rules actually encourage inclusion of literature for students of all backgrounds.

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