The Connecticut Bar Foundation just sponsored a statewide essay contest for any student enrolled in grades 9 through 12, or their equivalent (including homeschooled children), in Connecticut.
The topic of this year's essay contest was "Out With The Books" -- a rather timely topic given the number of pornographic books that have been found in school libraries these days.
Entries were due on February 22, 2023.
Winners are expected to be announced before the end of May.
Students were encouraged to carefully review the full fact pattern presented in a fictitious case, and ensure their responses were original and responsive to the topic. Entries were submitted through a sponsoring teacher or counselor, or a parent, in the event of a homeschooler.
Essays are being judged on content / originality, organization, use of research / resource material and writing and grammatical correctness.
Parents were required to sign a release form in order for their children to participate.
The stated purpose of the essay contest was to get young people in Connecticut "thinking about and exploring legal issues relevant to them."
Last year, 145 students from 46 different schools across Connecticut participated in the contest.
The Case Used In The 2022-2023 Essay Contest.
The case is about a librarian, Ms. Murphy, who is worried that "her" kids won't have access to books that address issues that "teenagers deal with every day" including racial inequality, marriage equality and gender acceptance.
Students know that they can talk to Ms. Murphy about different perspectives.
One day a student named Gary revealed to Ms. Murphy that, "he was struggling with his sexual orientation and lives in a strict, conservative, Christian family." While Gary's father wanted to "pray the gay out of him", Ms. Murphy instead recommended books to encourage Gary to explore his sexuality.
Ms. Murphy suggested that Gary join a small book club with "marginalized kids" who read books about "issues" and discuss the books.
Then one morning Ms. Murphy heard that the Board of Education decided to "ban" a number of books that she already had shelved in the school library. So she raced to the school to "save" the books, hiding them especially for Gary and his friends in the book club.
When the students arrived for the book club, Ms. Murphy provided a copy of the now-banned pornographic book "Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts)" to Gary. She knew she shouldn't have given the book to Gary, she knew it was against the new policy, and she even warned Gary that the book was now banned and he would have to hide it. She similarly gave banned books to the other members of the book club.
Later that day, Gary was bumped in the hallway, and the banned book fell out of his backpack. The Assistant Principal saw the book's title, and immediately escorted Gary to the Principal's office, where it was eventually revealed that Ms. Murphy provided the book to Gary.
Ms. Murphy was subsequently fired for violating the school's new policy, and requested a hearing in front of the Board of Education to appeal her termination. She argued that the BOE was violating the First Amendment by banning the book.
The contest participants are then given the following writing prompt:
You are the attorney for the Board of Education. Advise the Board on the merits of Ms. Murphy’s appeal.
The case, when presented to students from this slanted perspective, is all about the First Amendment, and completely ignores the rights of parents, for instance.
But That's Not The Only Issue With The Case.
Why did the Connecticut Bar Foundation choose to use a real book instead of a fictitious book for this fictitious case? And not just any book, the Bar Foundation picked one of the most controversial, frequently banned books about a sexually-promiscuous teenager that you could imagine -- Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) -- why would it pick that particular book of all the books available in the library?
Did any of the highly-educated attorneys in the Bar Foundation actually read this book before incorporating the title into the essay contest, thereby implicitly recommending the book to Connecticut's high schoolers?
Did the Bar Foundation consider the views of its highly-esteemed members, including attorneys and judges, before introducing this book to students? What about the Foundation's sponsors and supporters, including the Connecticut Supreme Court and the "Leadership Banks"? Or the other organizations listed at the bottom of the contest page, such as the Center for Children's Advocacy, Lawyers for Children America or The Children's Law Center? Would those organizations feel comfortable recommending a highly controversial, frequently banned book about a sexually-promiscuous teen to students aged 14 and up?
Do You Want To Know How Controversial This Book Really Is?
The Amazon description of Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) starts off by saying "Jack has a lot of sex - and he's not ashamed of it." This is an understatement to say the least. The book received a rating of 5 on No Left Turn's Rated Book Guide, a rating which is normally reserved for "aberrant" content that is meant for adults only due to explicit references to sexual activities, including assault and battery.
The book graphically and repeatedly describes masturbation, threesomes, foursomes, anal sex (including tips on "how to"), and other deviant sexual behavior. One scene glorifies Jack's life as being "like a porno" after he gets "f*cked by the coach in the locker room" -- something which could also be considered "rape" or "statutory rape" if the child is aged 15 or younger.
The language evoked to describe scenes in the book is extremely detailed and filled with every foul four-letter word you could imagine. The book also mentions GRINDR, a gay sex hook-up app that curious readers might be inclined to check out after learning about it from Jack of Hearts.
Of course, it's not just the choice of book that raises eyebrows about this essay contest.
The fictitious case could have taken an entirely different direction.
The Bar Foundation could have made this case about obscenity laws, and the loophole in Connecticut law that allows pornographic books to be stocked in school libraries in the first place.
Alternatively, the Bar Foundation could have made this fictitious case about a rogue librarian who attempted to corrupt the morality of a child by offering him a pornographic book. After all, Impairing the Morals of a Child is still considered to be a crime in the State of Connecticut, is it not?
The take-away for students from this essay contest is to sympathize with the librarian instead of the "unsupportive conservative, Christian parents" and the evil book banners, and perhaps to head to the local library to see if they can get their hands on some library porn so they can learn more about orgies.
Is that the message the Connecticut Bar Foundation really intended to send with this contest?