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Man Who Tried To Ban Fun Home, Charged With Child Molestation

Ryan Utterback was in the news last year, campaigning for the North Kansas City School District to remove gay-themed books from school libraries, including the graphic novel Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. But it has now been reported by local media that in December, he was charged over allegations of child molestation and domestic assault charges, as well as allegations for furnishing pornographic material to a minor.

Man Who Tried To Ban Fun Home In Schools, Charged With Child Molestation
Man Who Tried To Ban Fun Home In Schools, Charged With Child Molestation

In October, Ryan Utterback stood with James Richmond, the president of the Northland Parent Association, at the North Kansas City school board meeting, who talked about the inappropriateness of Fun Home, a graphic memoir about the author's teenage life growing up in a funeral home, as well as coming to terms with the fact that she was a gay woman. While James Richmond spoke out about how shocking the pages of Fun Home were, to him at least, Ryan Utterback held up blown-up copies of the panels and pages in question.

Man Who Tried To Ban Fun Home In Schools, Charged With Child Molestation
Man Who Tried To Ban Fun Home In Schools, Charged With Child Molestation

Local TV station Fox4 quoted local resident Parker Christian stating "When I heard about that, the irony was just really there" They also quoted James Richmond stating ", Ryan was an attendee at the board meeting. I needed help holding a presentation, and he helped. I can't comment on the alleged charges against him, because I have no knowledge about them and they have nothing to do with me or the Northland Parent Association." And that Utterback's next court appearance is scheduled for March.

Other challenges and attempted bannings to Fun Home include residents of Marshall, Missouri attempting to have Fun Home and Craig Thompson's Blankets, removed from the city's public library in 2006. Initially removed, they were then returned on appeal.

In 2008, an instructor at the University of Utah placed Fun Home on the syllabus of a mid-level English course, "Critical Introduction to English Literary Forms". One student objected to the assignment, and was given an alternate reading in accordance with the university's religious accommodation policy. The student subsequently contacted a local organization called "No More Pornography", which started an online petition calling for the book to be removed from the syllabus. The university did not comply.

In 2013, Palmetto Family Council, a conservative South Carolina group affiliated with Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, challenged the inclusion of Fun Home as a reading selection for incoming freshmen at the College of Charleston. The controversy made its way to the Senate and House of Representatives. The punishment given to the college was a cut to funding to prevent the institution from exploring identity and sexuality, by $52,000, the cost of the summer reading program. After a nearly week-long debate in which Fun Home and Bechdel were compared to slavery, Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler, the state Senate voted to restore the funding, but redirect the funds towards study of the United States Constitution and The Federalist Papers; the university was also required to provide alternate books to students who object to an assignment due to a "religious, moral or cultural belief".

In 2018, parents challenged Fun Home in the Watchung Hills Regional High School of Somerset County, New Jersey curriculum. The challenge was rejected, and the book remained in the school. One year later, a lawsuit was filed in May 2019 against the administrators of the school asking for the removal of the book. The lawsuit claims that if the book is not removed, "minors will suffer irreparable harm and that New Jersey statutes will be violated." After the Watchung Hills High School challenge, administrators at nearby North Hunterdon High School removed Fun Home from their libraries as well, but the book was later restored in February 2019.

And most recently, in January 2022, the Wentzille school board in Missouri voted 4–3 to ban Fun Home, going against the review committee's 8–1 vote to retain the book in the district's libraries. The ban included three other books, as well: George M. Johnson's All Boys Aren't Blue, Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, and Kiese Laymon's Heavy.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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