- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A Grand Rapids-area school district and an author have responded to a parent who wants to ban an anti-bullying children’s book because it’s about a boy who likes to wear a dress.

Lee Markham contacted Forest Hills Public Schools administrators Wednesday with concerns about the book, “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress,” which is being read to his child’s third-grade class. He told WOOD-TV that the book promotes another lifestyle that goes against societal norms.

“For one thing, if any of those kids weren’t thinking about wearing dresses, now they are,” Markham said.

Superintendent Dan Behm said the book isn’t part of the normal curriculum, but is being read in response to students who were asking questions about people who dress differently.

Author Christine Baldacchino told The Grand Rapids Press that she’s surprised by the backlash. She said the book’s lesson is not to judge or ridicule someone who dresses in an unfamiliar way.

“I don’t want Morris being labeled at all, whether it be transgender, gay, or straight. Right now, he’s a boy expressing himself, and that’s all we know and should care about,” Baldacchino said.

She also said that the book’s subject is taunted by his classmates who don’t understand why he likes the dress in the classroom’s dress-up center.

“Kids need the leeway to be able to discover who they are,” she said. This is about people just trying to be themselves and expressing themselves the way they want to.”

Behm said the students responded to the book by pointing out that the boy’s attraction to the dress is similar to different preferences for things like hair styles, hobbies and sports.

“The students showed an easy understanding of this new learning and were ready to move on to know more about math, language arts, science, geography, and the arts,” he said.

The school district has no plans to pull the book from the shelves.

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