According to a school in Ohio, one children's book featuring unicorns was “too controversial” and recently banned.
Jason Tharp, a 45-year-old children’s book author, was prepared to read “It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn!” when he got a call from the principal saying that the higher-ups didn’t want him to read the book to students.
“I just straight up asked him, ‘Does somebody think I made a gay book?’” Tharp told the Post. “And he said, ‘Yes. … The concern is that you’re coming with an agenda to recruit kids to become gay.’”
With his book, Tharp wanted to reach that “one kid” who needs to feel seen since he sometimes felt invisible himself, according to the Washington Post.
“I sat down and tried to figure out what kind of character would be non-threatening, that they would be instantly lovable and I would be able to kind of get them … to be invested in the story,” Tharp told the Post.
He thought of the perfect character: a unicorn.
However, an elementary school in the Buckeye Valley Local School District felt differently.
It appears this was in response to a complaint by a parent who was concerned by the book, according to Jeremy Froehlich, the interim superintendent.
“They just wanted to make sure that we vetted the book and our staff thought that they had vetted it,” Froehlich told WBNS.
“I was just shocked — and all from one parent,” Tharp said. “I never ran into an issue like this … I never in a million years thought I’d have to defend this book.”
“It’s Okay to Be a Unicorn!” is about a unicorn named Cornelius who hides his identity from the horses who don’t like unicorns. At the end, he reveals his true self and is accepted by them.
Tharp then offered to read a different book called “It’s Okay to Smell Good!” – about a skunk who lives in a stinky world but likes good-smelling things, according to the Post. In the end, the skunk finds one friend who is like him and makes him feel less alone.
However, that book wasn’t good enough either, despite not having rainbows or unicorns.
The principal emailed Tharp saying that the higher-ups wanted him to focus on his “positive message and illustrations.” Tharp was still able to present the following day, but without any references to the unicorn book.
Not all parents had complaints about the book. Angry parents who liked it inspired them to protest the superintendent’s decision, the Post reported. The school board held a meeting April 8 to address the issue.
Kaylan Brazelton, a parent and educator at the school, said teachers were told to take down drawings of rainbows and unicorns that students made in anticipation of Tharp’s visit.
“It’s a rainbow. The fact that we had to take all of the students’ artwork down — it was gut-wrenching, and we couldn’t even believe we were in that position to do so, but we did what we were told,” Brazelton said at the meeting, adding that the children “were so confused.”
Another parent started a GoFundMe with Tharp to raise money for a free event in May when he will read his unicorn book and share his story.
Tharp is convinced that those who object to the book never read it because it doesn’t have any references to the LGBT community, according to the Post.
“They are projecting their agenda [because] there is a rainbow … on the back of the book,” Tharp said.
But the author, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year and is now in recovery, said he doesn’t let people’s uninformed opinions consume him.
“There’s a lot of clarity a brain tumor brings,” Tharp told the Post. “I don’t spend my time catering to people with an agenda because there’s so much joy out there, there’s so much love to be had.”
Under the “Don’t Say Gay” law, Palm Beach County School Superintendent Mike Burke said he removed two children’s books to be reviewed for featuring trans characters, even though the law doesn’t go into effect until July.
“In Florida, we believe parents not only have a role, but a fundamental role in the education of their kids,” DeSantis said, according to Florida Politics.