WARREN, NJ - One year ago, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, a 2006 graphic memoir by the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, was the source of controversy at Watchung Hills Regional High School. A lawsuit was filed against the Watchung Hills Board of Education, the Board President, the Superintendent, Principal, Director of Curriculum, Supervisor Of English, and an English teacher.
On Monday, State Superior Court judge Margaret Goodzeit granted the Watchung Hills school district’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The suit was filed on May 3, 2019 and asked for immediate removal of the book from Watchung Hills, “to.enjoin the defendants from facilitating, distributing or in any way permitting Fun Home from appearing or being any part of the curriculum at Watchung Hills.” The suit says the Plaintiffs “fear if the defendants are not enjoined minors will suffer irreparable harm and that New Jersey statutes will be violated.”
The suit was dismissed with prejudice, and cannot be re-litigated in the court. The order denying the claim and dismissing the complaint dated June 10 can be found :
Board of Education president Peter Fallon said on May 9 after the suit was first filed, “It is a shame that taxpayer money will have to be spent to defend such a baseless lawsuit. Money that will have to be spent to defend this lawsuit is money that will not be available to spend on educating the children of the Watchung Hills Regional High School District.”
After the controversy last spring, the Watchung Hills Board of Education revised the 12th grade English Curriculum for the 2018-19 school year. The changes were outlined at an October meeting and shared with parents at Back to School Night.
“Fun Home, A Family Tragicomic” by Allison Bechtel, “We Are Okay” by Nina LaCour, and “Speak No Evil” by Uzodinma Iweala were approved by the Watchung Hills Board of Education as the three options in the senior English unit on LGBTQ literature. Seniors have the option to choose two of the three books to read.
Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett explained that the curriculum was expanded last year to include a broad range of literature to reach all students, not just works that portray traditional gender and sexual identities. She said that the expansion of the English curriculum is in alignment with the Strategic Plan and is the result of a two year research process which included professional development for the English department staff.
The book Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, is a last in a series of graphic novels read throughout the four years at Watchung Hills.
The book chronicles the author's childhood and addresses themes of sexual orientation, gender roles, suicide, emotional abuse, dysfunctional family life, and the role of literature in understanding self and family.
Fun Home has won critical acclaim, spending two weeks on the New York Times best seller list. Fun Home was named as one of the best books of 2006 and was nominated for several awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award and three Eisner Awards. Fun Home was adapted as a musical and won a Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015. The musical has been performed by high school students. Oakland School for the Arts in California took the stage for an a cappella version of “Ring of Keys.” http://www.playbill.com/article/watch-high-school-students-perform-moving-cover-of-ring-of-keys A message from the Curran theater says that “Ring of Keys” from the musical “beautifully empowers youth with a message of #hope, #love and #perseverance.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has written on the controversy at Watchung Hills.
For more see
Fun Home Lawsuit: Watchung Hills Sued Over Fun Home