Essex Middle School uses book based on transgender issues to teach eighth grade students about the Constitution


On November 2, 2022, the Essex Reporter in Vermont reported that eighth grade students in Essex Middle School “are learning about the U.S. Constitution this year.” The news outlet continued to report that “several classroom teachers selected ‘The 57 Bus’ as the coordinated social studies reading material.” The Essex Reporter continued to explain that The 57 Bus is a nonfiction book about “an agender teen with Asperger’s Syndrome, who was set on fire in 2013.”

A parent of a student “did not believe the reading material should be used for a Constitution lesson plan and reached out to the school with his complaint.” The news outlet continued: “When his concerns were not heard, [the parent] printed out flyers that included politicized buzzwords to catch the attention of EMS parents, encouraging them to read the book.” He reportedly “reached out to the school three times the week after his son told him about the reading in an attempt to discuss his issues with the curriculum and said he received no response.” He then “decided to print out flyers and give them to the parents.” The principal claimed to have only received two emails.

The Essex Reporter had a picture of the flyer.

On October 26, the parent spoke with the principal about the book. The principal sent him an email following up on their discussion that the social studies curriculum focused on the Constitution and “We the People.” The principal then included a statement in support of the book:

The 57 Bus– it’s a true event. Two young people (relatable). Marginalized groups (race, gender, disability- Autism). They come together to access their rights, find justice, and see each other as human beings through greater understanding. It is a real life crisis dealt through the American legal system.

The principal defended the book in an email.

The Essex Reporter continued to report that the Essex Westford School District’s director of equity and inclusion supported the book as well. She said: “The 57 Bus’ is written for 7th-9th graders to understand trans youth issues.” The news outlet then reported: “EWSD’s equity policy calls on the district to include trans youth across the curriculum, which [the equity director] said the district reminded parents is something they need to expect from EWSD schools.”

After the parent handed out flyers, the middle school sent a letter to other parents that stated:

Our policy requires us to be an environment that celebrates difference and does not deny the existence of any person; we recognize all identities as incredibly valuable to our District. We will include LGBTQIA+ stories, characters, and representation across the curriculum in the EWSD, including at EMS.

The school defended the book in a letter sent to parents.