Ohio school district bans children's book with rainbow cover

"It's Okay to Be a Unicorn" centers on a unicorn who believes himself to be a horse until embracing his true nature

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published April 15, 2022 10:51AM (EDT)

A Group of elementary-aged children is reading a book in the park. (Getty Images)
A Group of elementary-aged children is reading a book in the park. (Getty Images)

A children's book about unicorns was banned from a school district in Ohio after the book was deemed inappropriate due to the rainbow on its cover. 

On April 6, author Jason Tharp was scheduled to appear at the Buckeye Valley Local School District for a reading of his book "It's Okay to Be a Unicorn," which centers on a unicorn who believes himself to be a horse until embracing his true nature.

That premise, however, did not sit well with one parent, who, according to The Independent, thought that Tharp was "coming with an agenda to recruit kids to become gay."

"I was just shocked – and all from one parent," Tharp told The Washington Post. "I never ran into an issue like this … I never in a million years thought I'd have to defend this book."

For remedy, Tharp offered to read the kids another one of his books – "It's Okay to Smell Good!" – which features a skunk who lives in a foul-smelling world and eventually learns to appreciate the beauty of pleasant scents. However, his proposal was rejected, Tharp said, "because apparently it could be twisted into an agenda as well."

RELATED: Assistant principal fired for reading students a children's book called "I Need a New Butt!"

Prior to the event, Tharp was also reportedly instructed by the school principal not to discuss "It's Okay to Be a Unicorn" or "It's Okay to Smell Good!" And upon visiting Buckeye Valley West Elementary, The Independent reported, Tharp discovered that students and staff had removed all of their artwork featuring unicorns and rainbows in anticipation of the event. 

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After the event, the school board reportedly held an "emergency meeting" in which multiple members of the community aired out grievances over the district's treatment of the author. 

One parent has reportedly started a GoFundMe in order to ensure that Tharp's next event at the school will be free. 

"It's Okay to Be a Unicorn" makes no explicit mention of the LGBTQ+ community, and Tharp believes that conservative parents may have projected their own fears onto the work. 

"I'm not here to entertain adults that want to project their own whatever issues onto a children's book," he told a CBS affiliate. "I'm here to create books that inspire kids to dream big, embrace themselves, understand the importance of self-kindness, to really learn how to manage your emotions because it's a confusing world we live in, and being a human is not easy."

RELATED: Fired over CRT: Missouri high school teacher accused of teaching "critical race theory" loses job

Tharp is just the latest author or educator to get caught in the culture war crossfire around race, sex, and gender.

Just last week, a Missouri high school teacher was fired for passing out a 15-question worksheet titled "How Racially Privileged Are You?". And last month, an assistant principal in Mississippi was sacked for reading his students a book called "I Need a New Butt!

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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Anti-lgbtq Book Bans Buckeye Valley Local School District Ohio Rainbows Unicorns