Hermon High School. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Most parents of Hermon High School students don’t want to restrict their student’s access to books — despite what a town survey showed earlier this year.

A permission slip went home with high schoolers at the start of the year. Parents were asked to decide if their child should be restricted from reading books with mature or adult content.

A total of 82 percent of students are allowed full access to the library, contradicting the survey of town residents where 56 percent supported a policy restricting access to some books with adult or mature content.

The permission slip data was presented during a Hermon School Committee meeting Monday night by Principal Brian Walsh.

A list of 81 books were restricted after a group of parents pushed for parental consent for books with mature or sexual content. The list includes books like “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews, Stephen King’s “Gerald’s Game,” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five.”

Out of 564 permission slips, 466 students are allowed access to all books in the library. Parents of 45 students restricted their child’s access to the list of 81 books.

No parents completely restricted their students from using the library. Fifty-three students did not return their slips.

Most of the students who didn’t return their slips were juniors and seniors, Walsh said. They told Walsh that they had access to bigger libraries through the college courses they are enrolled in and didn’t need the high school library.

Hermon High School’s library served as the town library from 1995 to 2017, so it has an extensive collection of books for a wide range of people, which includes books with adult and mature themes, the permission slip said.

Debate over restricting access to books began after parents expressed concern in late 2021 over an LGBTQ+ book display in the high school library. A group of parents wanted a policy that identified library books with sexual content but not ban or to remove them.

Hermon mailed out 5,095 surveys, asking residents if they supported content standards for “erotic, explicit sexual, and pornographic imagery, including written explicit content,” in the Hermon school system.

The town spent about $5,883 to send the survey to Hermon households, but it did not go to Levant and Carmel households, despite students from those towns attending the school.

Only 22.5 percent of surveys were returned, with 56 percent of respondents supporting a content standards policy and 41 percent opposing the policy. Some of the returned surveys were not filled out.

The 81 books on the list were in part identified by Concerned Hermon School District Community Members. The library has multiple copies of some books on the list.

The most checked out book on the list is “Crank,” by Ellen Hopkins, with 35 check-outs. Other books have not been checked out frequently, like Sarah Maas’ “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” has been checked out three times.

At least two books about LGBTQ+ people are on the list. One book is “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed,” a memoir by Judy Shepard. It’s about the anti-gay, brutal murder of her son, Matthew Shepard, and has been checked out seven times.

Another book, “She Gets the Girl,” follows two college-age women who end up falling in love. The book, by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick, who are married, has never been checked out.

Marie Weidmayer is a reporter covering crime and justice. A recent transplant to Maine, she was born and raised in Michigan, where she worked for MLive, covering the criminal justice system. She graduated...