Texas teacher reportedly fired after reading from Anne Frank’s diary to students

Parents complain about sexual passage from 2018 version of diary that restored some portions of initial book that had been cut

A man holds a copy of the graphic novel version of "The Diary of Anne Frank," by Israeli writer-director Ari Folman and illustrator David Polonsky, in Paris on September 18, 2017. (Stringer/AFP via Getty Images via JTA)
A man holds a copy of the graphic novel version of "The Diary of Anne Frank," by Israeli writer-director Ari Folman and illustrator David Polonsky, in Paris on September 18, 2017. (Stringer/AFP via Getty Images via JTA)

JTA — – A middle school teacher in a district outside Houston, Texas, has been fired reportedly for reading a sexual passage from Anne Frank’s diary out loud to eighth-grade students, the district told local news.

The passage came from a 2018 graphic version of the diary by the world-famous Jewish Holocaust victim that restored some portions of the initial book that had been cut from the most well-known editions.

“Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation” has also been at the center of several other recent book-related controversies in public schools: It was briefly pulled from another Texas district, permanently removed from a Florida district and has spent several months under review at another Florida district; a Republican Jewish lawmaker in Florida has called it “Anne Frank pornography.”

“A version of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ book that was not approved by the district was read in class,” Mike Canizales, a spokesperson for Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District, told a local news channel. The teacher was sent home last week and replaced by a substitute, and “there is an active investigation,” Canizales continued.

The graphic version of Frank’s diary was reportedly on a reading list the school sent out to parents at the start of the school year, though district officials claimed it had never been approved for classroom use. The fired teacher had read portions of the diary aloud in class, in addition to assigning it for students to read.

In the book, adapted by Ari Folman and David Polonsky, a passage dated March 24, 1944, depicts Anne describing male and female genitalia, including descriptions of “the clitoris” and pubic hair. The words are really Anne’s own, and appear in her initial handwritten draft of the diary. The passage comes immediately after a passage describing “the sound of gunfire” as Nazi soldiers attacked Allied forces parachuting out of a crashing plane.

“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, that’s not OK,” a parent of twin boys in the class told local news. The parent was referring to another passage from the book, in which Anne briefly describes her latent feelings toward another girl, that some conservative parents and activists say they find objectionable.

The day before the district fired the teacher, it alerted parents that “inappropriate” content had been read aloud in class. “The reading of that content will cease immediately. Your student’s teacher will communicate her apologies to you and your students soon, as she has expressed those apologies to us,” the district wrote in an email.

The Anne Frank Fonds, the Switzerland-based foundation that oversees the copyright to Frank’s diary and authorized the new graphic adaptation, has defended the work in the past. “We consider the book of a 12-year-old girl to be appropriate reading for her peers,” board member Yves Kugelmann has told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Jewish books including “Anne Frank’s Diary,” “Maus” and “The Fixer” have become frequently ensnared in a broader, conservative-led effort to purge schools of material that activists deem inappropriate, largely for content involving sexuality, gender identity and race. Teachers are increasingly facing censures and firings for including controversial books, including by race writer Ta-Nahisi Coates, in class.

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