standing letters

It has been almost four months since I addressed the Westerly School Committee regarding the book “Gender Queer.” That meeting, as you remember, was turned into a circus by seven teachers, who sought to obscure images of the book from members of the School Committee, those in attendance, and those attending remotely, via Zoom. It was quite a pathetic display.

In spite of the lame attempts to label me as anti-gay or anti-LGBTQ because of my stance against this book’s availability in the Westerly High School library, I and many others stand firm in our belief that this book does not belong there. It contains and normalizes pornography and pedophilia, and contributes to the disturbing trend of the hyper-sexualization of our kids. I did not raise issue with the book because of gay or LQBTQ issues. Porn is porn. Pedophilia is pedophilia. Both are sick and wrong, no matter the gender of the participants.

On Feb. 17, I met with WHS Principal Mike Hobin and librarian Mariane Mirando to begin the process of addressing my issues with the book, per Westerly Public Schools’ policy. The 14-minute meeting was a waste of time. Hobin was more concerned with jotting down notes and spelling my name correctly than anything else. Mirando defended the book, calling state and federal obscenity statutes “opinions.” A committee was to be chosen and seated by March 3 to review my issues with the book, as well as the multiple parental complaint forms I collected and submitted at our meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Alicia Storey, as well as Mirando, were to hand-pick the committee participants, which would include themselves, as well as teachers. One parent with a child at WHS can serve, per policy. Tax-paying citizens with no kids in the system need not apply, however, also per policy. I asked Hobin to tell me who was on the committee, and why taxpayers with no kids couldn’t serve, and was told, “I didn’t write the policy ... I did not create the committee ... It’s not my place to share the names.” Funny, he’s the school principal. The book is in his library. If not his place, then whose? I also reached out to Storey and Superintendent Garceau for answers, and have received no response, as of this writing. As I’ve asked before, regarding other issues: What are these people hiding?

Because of the above meeting, I knew I had to do more, so I filed a criminal complaint with the Westerly Police, citing violations of both federal and state obscenity laws. All seven School Committee members were named, as well as Garceau, Storey, Hobin, and Mirando. The hyper-sexualization of our kids must stop. The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office has the case, and I am hoping that everyone named in my complaint will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Again, porn is porn. Pedophilia is pedophilia. I would have filed this complaint regardless of the gender of the participants of the acts depicted in the book. Labeling me as anti-gay or anti-LGBTQ is typical of those I am dealing with who, instead of addressing an issue of concern, find it necessary to attack the messenger personally. This is weak and shows terrible leadership, both at the School Committee level, as well as from Garceau and Storey, who must both be shown the door.

Please remember to vote in November. It is the single most important election in the history of this nation, our state, and our town. We must rid this town of the dirty “Westerly Way” once and for all.

Robert J. Chiaradio Jr.

Westerly

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