COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is questioning how a memoir with explicit drawings of sexual acts was available in a state school system, becoming the latest state leader in the U.S. to question the book.
McMaster issued a stern letter Wednesday to State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, in which he demanded answers on how the book "Gender Queer: A Memoir" was available in schools in the city of Fort Mill. McMaster called the book "obscene."
"For sexually explicit materials of this nature to have ever been introduced or allowed in South Carolina’s schools, it is obvious that there is or was either a lack of, or a complete breakdown in, any existing oversight processes or the absence of appropriate screening standards," McMaster said.
The illustrated memoir — a previous winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which each year recognizes “ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18” — contains explicit illustrations of oral sex and masturbation.
In the letter, McMaster claims to have been alerted to the issue by concerned parents, although the book in question has become a strategic GOP talking point over the course of the past year. It came up during the recent Virginia governor's race, and just last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for a similar review in that state, also citing parental complaints.
McMaster said he wants a "systemic review" of all inappropriate materials in state schools.
A spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Education said they learned of the issue last week. They said local school libraries and media centers don't get money from the state nor do their books go through the state instructional materials process. Each district in the state has its own board policy for review and purchase of books.
"It is clear that in this particular instance, the district failed to properly vet the book in question for adoption," the spokesman said.
He added a review of district policies was already underway and they will make recommendations for improvement.
McMaster said he wants to see if other such books may be in schools, and demanded a policy to prevent books that he says are pornographic from entering these libraries.
He also said he alerted South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, saying he believes the presence of the book in the schools may be a violation of state law.