A private Christian school in Virginia is pushing fourth-graders to read a controversial book about a boy who says he’s a girl and that includes explicit descriptions of children’s genitalia.
St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, a private Episcopalian school in Alexandria, Va., that charges more than $39,000 in tuition, sent a book list this week to the parents of fourth-graders that includes the novel Melissa, according to emails reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. Written by “genderqueer” author Alex Gino, the book tells of a fourth-grade boy named George who believes he is a girl. The characters discuss genitalia, and the book includes graphic lines such as “what she has between her legs was nobody’s business but hers and her boyfriend.”
“She … tried not to think about what was between her legs, but there it was, bobbing in front of her,” one passage reads.
Melissa has been widely criticized since its release in 2015, facing criticism from parents who say the novel is inappropriate for young children. The book was originally titled George, but Gino changed the title to reflect the child protagonist’s trans name after facing backlash from activists.
The school’s reading list is the latest sign that the assignment of woke materials is not limited to public schools, and that religious schools are exposing young children to sexual and age-inappropriate content. Accrediting associations often push private schools to adopt the woke curriculum, the Washington Free Beacon reported in 2021.
St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes is part of the National Association of Independent Schools, a group of more than 1,600 U.S. private schools that requires DEI protocols for accreditation. One of its members, the Dalton School, hosts an annual conference for other New York administrators to “broaden and improve inclusion within the racial, socioeconomic and sexually diverse communities,” according to its website.
St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School did not return a request for comment.
A school administrator justified the assignment to parents in the name of “DEIB,” or diversity, equity, inclusion, and a new, fourth term: belonging. “I worked with teachers to identify books for this unit that provide both mirrors and windows into diverse identities and experiences,” Lower School librarian Julie Esanu, who refers to herself as a “DEIB advocate,” wrote in her email announcing the list.
The author of Melissa, Gino, is an activist for the “LGBTQIAP+” community and serves on the board of NOLOSE, a “fat-positive, queer, feminist organization dedicated to supporting radical fat acceptance and culture,” according to Gino’s website.
Other books on the fourth-grade reading list include Ban This Book, a novel about a fourth-grader who fights against so-called book bans at her school library, and Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream, a book about a Muslim elementary student who pursues his dream of playing basketball over his parents’ wishes that he practice violin.
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