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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Texas teacher fired for using adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary

By Timothy Bella Washington Post

A Texas teacher has been fired after a middle school class was assigned to read a graphic novel adaptation of “The Diary of Anne Frank” that officials say had not been approved by the school district.

The Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District announced that a teacher had assigned an eighth-grade class to read a passage from “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation,” which includes passages Frank wrote about female and male genitalia, and a possible attraction to women. The unabridged version of Frank’s diary has been removed from schools in Texas and Florida this year after complaints from parents over the book’s sexual content.

The teacher, who has not been publicly identified, was sent home on Sept. 13 after “concerns regarding curricular selections in your student’s reading class,” district spokesman Mike Canizales said in a letter sent to eighth-grade parents at Hamshire-Fannett Middle School in Beaumont, Texas, east of Houston.

Canizales did not specify the reason for the termination but said a substitute has been teaching the class since Sept. 13.

“The District is currently in the process of posting the position to secure a high-quality, full-time teacher as quickly as possible,” Canizales said in a statement to the Washington Post. “During this period of transition, our administrators and curriculum team will provide heightened support and monitoring in the reading class to ensure continuity in instruction.”

An investigation is trying to determine whether the adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary had been approved. District officials maintain that the graphic adaptation was never approved, but the book was on a reading list sent to parents at the beginning of the school year, according to KFDM, a CBS and Fox affiliate in Beaumont that was the first to report the story.

It’s unclear whether the fired teacher has an attorney.

The teacher’s dismissal over assigning the adaptation comes at a time when Republican lawmakers, conservative groups and parents are pushing for schools to ban books on history, race and gender that they say are inappropriate for their children. There were 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, according to data released in March by the American Library Association. That number was the highest since the nonprofit began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago.

The 2018 graphic novel, adapted by Ari Folman from the unabridged version of Frank’s diary and illustrated by David Polonsky, was hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “so engaging and effective that it’s easy to imagine it replacing the Diary in classrooms and among younger readers.” The version by Folman, whose parents survived the Holocaust, illustrates the hope and despair that Frank felt during her time hiding from the Nazis inside a tiny annex. The graphic adaptation is fully authorized by the Anne Frank Fonds, the Switzerland-based foundation that oversees the copyright to Frank’s diary.

Previous versions of Frank’s diary had omitted sections in which she wrote about sexuality. One of the passages from March 24, 1944, that was published in the graphic adaptation has her describing male and female genitalia. Another has her captivated by female nude statues. A later passage includes Frank proposing to a friend that they show each other their breasts.

The adaptation has been a target of conservative groups and parents who have called on schools this year to remove the book over what one Florida Republican described as “Anne Frank pornography.” In August 2022, the Keller Independent School District in North Texas removed more than 40 books from its libraries and classrooms that had been challenged by parents. Among those was the illustrated version of Frank’s diary and the Bible. In April, the graphic adaptation was removed from the library at Vero Beach High School in Vero Beach, Fla., after a leader with Moms for Liberty, a conservative advocacy group, argued that the novel violated state standards on teaching the Holocaust accurately.

Canizales, the Hamshire-Fannett school district spokesman, did not say what sections of the graphic novel the eighth-grade class read. KFDM reported that the students read the passage in which Frank talks about male and female genitalia.

On Sept. 12, the school district said in an email to parents that eighth-grade students “were reading content that was not appropriate.”

“The reading of that content will cease immediately,” the district wrote. “Your student’s teacher will communicate her apologies to you and your students soon, as she has expressed those apologies to us.”

The next day, the teacher was removed and a substitute took over the reading class, according to the district. Among the parents upset by the teacher’s assignment is Amy Manuel, who found out about the graphic adaptation after her twin sons told her about their day at school.

“It’s bad enough she’s having them read this for an assignment, but then she also is making them read it aloud and making a little girl talk about feeling each other’s breasts and when she sees a female she goes into ecstasy,” Manuel told KFDM. “That’s not okay.”

That’s not how the Anne Frank Fonds sees it. The foundation repeatedly defended the inclusion of Frank’s original writing earlier this year to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, including the parts about her sexuality.

“We consider the book of a 12-year-old girl to be appropriate reading for her peers,” the foundation said in April.

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María Luisa Paúl contributed to this report.