Flickr/ Carol VanHook

This piece originally appeared on Upward News, which AllSides rates as Lean Right.

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What happened: A teacher in Illinois encouraged middle school students to read This Book Is Gay, an illustrated book that graphically describes “the ins and outs of gay sex” and promotes risky hookup apps. Parents filed a police report against her for alleged child endangerment.

Legacy media’s version of the story: NBC-affiliated outlet TODAY wrote a sympathetic feature story about the teacher, portraying the allegations as simply an attack on an “LGBTQ-themed book” without any description of its sexual content that has outraged parents across the country.

Warning: The following paragraph contains graphic content.

What’s really in the book: This Book Is Gay contains explicit passages on oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation, encourages seeking out orgies with strangers, and explains fetishes such as giving a “golden shower.” It also promotes adult dating apps such as Grindr, which has a weak age-verification system that has allowed adult predators to solicit and traffic children on several occasions. One paragraph in the book acknowledges that child users will encounter “grown-up adult types” through these apps, saying that it’s “fine as long as you’re honest and always use a condom.”

Why it matters: Other NBC outlets have republished TODAY’s disingenuous coverage of the story all over the internet, leading some online to condemn the parents involved as “book-burners” who have no valid reason to want the book restricted from their children. This follows a trend of legacy media refusing to cover book-banning controversies fairly or informatively, often describing challenged materials with vague phrasing like “books containing LGBTQ+ topics.”

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