Noted author Marc Tyler Nobleman found himself in the midst of a heated debate when a Georgia school district requested him to remove a reference to the gay son of a historical figure during his presentation.
Nobleman, famous for his book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-creator of Batman, was scheduled to speak to students in a suburban Atlanta school district about Bill Finger, the lesser-known co-creator of Batman. The controversy erupted when the district asked him to omit mentioning that the artist had a gay son, Fred.
Nobleman decided to cancel the talk rather than censor himself, later tellingHuffington Post reporters:
“We’re long past the point where we should be policing people talking about who they love. And that’s what I’m hoping will happen in this community.”
The incident highlights the ongoing debate surrounding LGBTQ+ issues in schools, particularly in states where laws restricting discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity are gaining momentum.
Although Georgia has not officially passed such laws, the incident involving Nobleman underscores how schools may be indirectly limiting discussions on these topics. Supporters of broader parental control over school curricula argue that these restrictions extend to conversations about sex and gender, even if not explicitly mentioned in state laws.
The talk, scheduled at Sharon Elementary in Forsyth County on August 21, first ran afoul of these issues after Nobleman mentioned in his first talk that Fred Finger was gay, prompting the principal to hand him a note during his second talk that said:
“Please only share the appropriate parts of the story for our elementary students.”
The district stated that it has a "responsibility" to inform parents about what students are learning in school and Principal Brian Nelson brought more attention to the matter after he wrote a note to parents apologizing for the error:
“This is not subject matter that we were aware that he was including nor content that we have approved for our students. I apologize that this took place."
"Action was taken to ensure that this was not included in Mr. Nobleman’s subsequent speeches and further measures will be taken to prevent situations like this in the future.”
The move to silence Nobleman was praised by Cindy Martin, chair of a conservative group named Mama Bears that had previously sued the school after the school banned a member of their group from reading explicit book excerpts at meetings.
Martin cited a 2022 Georgia law that bans discussion of sexuality without parental consent for any minor as one that gives parents “the right to direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training” of their children.
Many have criticized the school district's actions.
The incident with Nobleman is not an isolated case. Nationwide, schools have faced challenges related to books with LGBTQ+ themes or characters, leading many school districts to remove such books from their curriculum.
Georgia itself has become a battleground for issues surrounding diversity policies and sexually explicit books, with the 2022 law cited as giving parents greater control over discussions about sexuality with their children.