Renewed discussion on controversial book read in Orange County classroom

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The gay-themed fairytale book and the teacher who read it in an Efland classroom were the focus of a public forum in Orange County Wednesday. (WTVD)

The Chapel Hill Public Library hosted a book forum Wednesday evening about the gay-friendly children's book that caused a controversy in nearby Efland and resulted in the resignation of third grade teacher Omar Currie.

Efland and Chapel Hill are not in the same school district, but they are both in Orange County. The two towns are only 15 miles apart, but the sensibilities are a bit different, which was evidenced by the rousing response Currie received in Chapel Hill.

In Chapel Hill, when Currie read "King and King" aloud, he earned applause and even some cheers. It's a notable difference than the response he got in Efland after reading the book aloud to his class.

"This is nothing more than bringing homosexuality into a school where it does not belong," said one Efland parent at a crowded and contentious hearing about the book back in May.

The children's book about a prince who falls in love and marries another man caused a stir among a group of parents from Efland-Cheeks Elementary. They blasted Currie's decision to read the book without informing them first.

At the forum in Chapel Hill, Currie stood by his decision that he said was a product of his education at UNC-Chapel Hill.

"I was really surprised by the backlash and the lack of support because I feel like I was doing what I was trained to do," Currie told the crowd of about 150. "Because at Carolina that's what I learned we were supposed to do. We're supposed to read books that reflect diversity and do so without apology."

Under pressure, Currie resigned in May. He told ABC11 he feels he was targeted because he was gay.

His decision to read "King and King" aloud came after a student was called gay in a derogatory way.

Chapel Hill's mayor, who's also openly gay and former school teacher, thinks Currie combating bullying with a book was courageous.

"I know I wouldn't have been able to do what he did at his age when I was in the classroom," said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. "I think that represents huge growth and change in our community."

After resigning from Orange County Schools, Currie has already found a new job. He starts teaching school in Alexandria, Virginia in the fall. He has not ruled out a return to North Carolina some day in the future.

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