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Annabelle Jenkins | Annabelle Jenkins handing the banned book to Superintendent Derek Bub | Source: YouTube/ktvb7
Annabelle Jenkins | Annabelle Jenkins handing the banned book to Superintendent Derek Bub | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Idaho High School Graduate Refuses to Shake Superintendent’s Hand & Drops a Book at His Feet — She Explains Her Act

Ayesha Muhammad
Jun 27, 2024
08:15 A.M.

At her high school graduation, 18-year-old Annabelle Jenkins made an unforgettable statement. Known for her love of books and library advocacy, she stood against recent book bans in her school district. Her unexpected action, captured on video and posted on TikTok, quickly went viral and sparked a national conversation about censorship.

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The graduation ceremony at the Idaho Fine Arts Academy on May 23, 2024, was a typical event with 44 seniors receiving their diplomas. Among them was Annabelle Jenkins, a long-time library volunteer, who had a different plan.

Annabelle Jenkins onstage during her high school graduation ceremony, as seen in a video posted May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Annabelle Jenkins onstage during her high school graduation ceremony, as seen in a video posted May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Jenkins discreetly brought a controversial book into the ceremony, hiding it in the sleeve of her graduation gown. As she approached the superintendent, she pulled out the book and attempted to hand it to him. When he refused to accept it, she chose a different course of action.

Her protest was fueled by months of frustration over the removal of several books from her school's library, including the graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale."

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The graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," as seen in a video posted May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

The graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," as seen in a video posted May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

This removal was part of compliance with the "Children's School and Library Protection Act," signed into law by Governor Brad Little in April 2024. This law mandates the removal of materials deemed "obscene" from libraries accessible to minors, with penalties for non-compliance

Jenkins said her act at graduation was a response to how she and her fellow students were excluded from the removal process.

Annabelle Jenkins, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Annabelle Jenkins, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

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Jenkins, who has been deeply involved with libraries from a young age, was particularly dismayed by this development. "In middle school, I spent a lot of time in the teen space back there. The rule was I could only bring home as many books as my age," she recalled.

Her love for books and libraries continued throughout her high school years, where she volunteered extensively. Jenkins became serious about this mission in the fall of 2023 when she heard a teacher arguing with the school librarian over the graphic novel "The Handmaid's Tale."

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"I was just so shocked because I had never seen school staff behave that way in a school setting," she said. Jenkins was particularly impacted because the book was so important to her and her schoolmates.

"It is a book with a lot of heavy themes and it has some very difficult scenes to get through. It deals with a lot of sexual themes. I believe the word I heard being tossed around that book is pornographic, which I very strongly disagree with," Jenkins said. "My main issue is the teacher that was contesting it had not read the book."

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Jenkins read the book during her sophomore year of high school and felt that the graphic novel was a befitting adaptation. "That's not to say there aren't scenes in there that may be difficult for some students or some readers. I don't think it's a reason for it to be banned," she expressed.

The West Ada School District "removed" ten books last December, including "The Handmaid's Tale (Graphic Novel)," after a private meeting of administrators. In an email, the district said their decision aligns with the recent library law passed by the Idaho legislature.

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Jenkins said her act at graduation was a response to how she and her fellow students were excluded from the removal process. "How we've been treated and ignored, I realized that I did not want to walk across that stage and get my diploma and shake the superintendent's hand. I just did not want to do that," she opined.

Annabelle Jenkins, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Annabelle Jenkins, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Instead, she decided to make a statement. "When I got up there and I got the book out, and [the superintendent] wouldn't take it," she said. When he refused to take the book, she dropped it at Superintendent Derek Bub's feet. "It was a gesture, if you want to make a bigger show of it, be my guest," Jenkins noted.

Jenkins' TikTok video of the graduation protest, captioned "[He] wouldn't even touch it," went viral overnight. The in-lay text read,

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"[Pov]: your superintendent bans the handmaid's tale, so you give it to him at graduation."

Annabelle Jenkins handing over the graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" to Superintendent Derek Bub at her graduation ceremony, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Annabelle Jenkins handing over the graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" to Superintendent Derek Bub at her graduation ceremony, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

The video continues to grow in popularity, having amassed over 26.5 million views, as of June 27, 2024. Jenkins was surprised by the overwhelming response. "I wake up in the morning to my dad shaking me and saying your TikTok has a million views," she said. "It has blown up."

The video's viral status brought significant attention to the issue of book bans and censorship in Idaho. Jenkins' calm demeanor and clear articulation of her reasons resonated with many who shared her concerns about the suppression of information and the importance of libraries as community resources.

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District spokeswoman Niki Scheppers explained that the removal of the graphic novel aligned with the law's definition of obscene material. Although the graphic novel was removed, the original text of "The Handmaid's Tale" remained available for high school students.

"The original text of "The Handmaid's Tale" remains a valuable resource for our high school students, allowing them to explore and critically analyze its content in a manner appropriate for their developmental stage," Scheppers stated.

Annabelle Jenkins holding the graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" on her graduation ceremony, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Annabelle Jenkins holding the graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" on her graduation ceremony, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Scheppers also noted that Jenkins' gesture, "overshadowed the celebratory occasion for the Class of 2024, its graduates, and all their accomplishments as students, as a school, and as a district.

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Jenkins disagreed, stating, "My goal was never to be disruptive or mess up the ceremony and I really don't believe that I did. At the end of the day, I think that was my time on stage and that was my moment and that was something important for me to do."

Annabelle Jenkins folds her arms to emulate how Superintendent Derek Bub acted when she tried to hand him the banned book, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Annabelle Jenkins folds her arms to emulate how Superintendent Derek Bub acted when she tried to hand him the banned book, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Jenkins' passion for books and libraries began in her childhood and has only grown stronger over the years. She was featured in a StoryCorps segment in 2019, where she spoke about her close relationship with her local librarian and her earliest memories at the library.

Volunteering and participating in summer reading programs helped her realize the value of libraries not just as places of knowledge, but also as safe havens for individuals seeking refuge or skill development.

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Jenkins' commitment to libraries will continue beyond high school. She plans to attend Portland State University to pursue a degree in English literature, followed by a master's in library science.

Her ultimate goal is to become a librarian, a dream she has nurtured since her early days of exploring library shelves. "I realized how magical and important libraries are as spaces," she divulged. "I want to spend my life working on bettering them and protecting them."

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Removing "The Handmaid's Tale" graphic novel from school libraries is part of a larger national trend of increased scrutiny and censorship of books in educational settings.

In recent years, dozens of books have been removed from library shelves across Idaho, driven by political and social pressures. The fines and potential lawsuits associated with the new library law have led many libraries to preemptively remove materials to avoid legal troubles.

Jenkins' protest highlights the ongoing debate over what constitutes appropriate material for young readers and the role of libraries in providing access to diverse perspectives.

Annabelle Jenkins, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

Annabelle Jenkins, as seen in a video dated May 29, 2024 | Source: YouTube/ktvb7

It also underscores the importance of involving students in decisions that affect their education and access to information. Jenkins hopes her actions will encourage others to speak out against censorship and advocate for the importance of libraries.

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She left a message inside the book she dropped at Superintendent Bub's feet, hoping it would reach someone who would appreciate it. She wrote,

"Torch every book, burn every page, char every word to ash. Ideas are incombustible and therein lies your real fear," a quote from New York Times best-selling author Ellen Hopkins.

Jenkins believes that libraries are essential spaces for community and personal growth. "This is an issue that we can no longer ignore," she said. "Because if we do, it's just going to silently move along until it's at a worse place than we can imagine."

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The youngster's commitment to libraries and her plans for the future reflect a deep-seated belief in the importance of these institutions as bastions of knowledge, community, and freedom of thought.

As she embarks on the next chapter of her life, Jenkins' actions serve as a reminder of the impact one individual can have in advocating for what they believe in.

Did you find this story interesting? Scroll down to check out another lovely read.

93-Year-Old Widow Donates Late Husband's $1 Billion to Fund Medical School Tuition in NYC's Poorest Borough

The United States, the world's wealthiest nation, grapples with a concerning reality: a shortage of doctors, particularly primary care physicians.

This shortage stems partly from the crushing burden of medical school debt, deterring many aspiring doctors from pursuing their dream careers.

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A group of medical students | Source: Pexels

A group of medical students | Source: Pexels

However, a recent act of extraordinary generosity by 93-year-old Ruth Gottesman has the potential to be a game-changer.

Dr. Gottesman donated a remarkable $1 billion to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. This historic gift will ensure that all future medical students at Einstein will graduate debt-free. Dr. Gottesman said:

"We have terrific medical students, but this will open it up for many other students whose economic status is such that they wouldn't even think about going to medical school."

Ruth Gottesman attends the Spirit of Achievement Luncheon on May 17, 2016 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Ruth Gottesman attends the Spirit of Achievement Luncheon on May 17, 2016 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Curious to know more details? You can click here to read the whole story.

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