After principal bans teen-rated manga books, Magnolia Middle School club forced to disband

A mom’s petition has over 1,100 signatures after her children’s Kent County middle school banned teen-rated manga books, effectively disbanding the school’s manga club.

Jennifer Antonik’s two children were in the after-school manga club at Magnolia Middle School in the Caesar Rodney School District. Her eldest, an eighth grader, had been part of it for three years.

Sponsoring teacher Gretchen Fox had assembled a manga library and anywhere from 20 to 80 kids gathered to read and discuss it, as well as watch anime, Antonik said. Kids who participated had to have a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian, according to Antonik.

Manga are Japanese comic books and graphic novels, while anime is Japanese animation.

On Sept. 17, Antonik’s kids were sent home with a letter from Fox.

Jennifer Antonik's two children are seen here with the former manga library assembled by a teacher at Magnolia Middle School. All the books had to be removed after the school's principal banned manga rated

“Administration has decided that any manga or content (anime that I show during the club) that is over an ‘E’ or ‘Y’ rating cannot be in my room or shown/provided to students,” she wrote.

Most manga comes with a rating of “A” or “E” for all ages, “T” for teens, “OT” or “T+” for older teens or “M” for mature, but there are no industrywide guidelines that influence the ratings.

More:Lawsuit claims Sussex Central High principals created meme of student’s exposed breast

All of the content at Magnolia Middle, which has students from sixth to eighth grade, was rated “T,” according to the letter, so the club would no longer be meeting.

“(The club was) a safe space where the kids can be who they want to be, explore their interests and decompress from the day once a week. It’s important to them,” Antonik said.

Last year, the manga club won a $1,000 prize from Hertrich Toyota of Milford’s “Cash for Class” program specifically to expand the manga library. A Caesar Rodney School District Facebook post lauded the club for “encouraging reading and increasing reading comprehension with the middle school students.”

Antonik emailed Magnolia Middle School Principal Matthew Keen with her concerns on Sept. 19, and he responded the same day.

Magnolia Middle School teacher Gretchen Fox holds the check she was awarded last year to expand her classroom's manga library. The books have now been removed from the school following an administrative order.

“All material rated T and up according to the rating scale needed to be removed from the classroom as it could be taken as inappropriate for our aged students,” he wrote, linking to a article as the scale he was referring to. publishes articles that are “a lovable jumble of urban legends, sports history, and esoteric trivia,” according to its “About Us” section. The website’s article, “What Are the Age Ratings in Manga?,” is the first thing that comes up when you Google “manga rating system.”

On Wednesday, Caesar Rodney School District spokesman Mike Williams said the district is reviewing the matter.

More:Details on a new 4th-5th grade school, school additions and 1,100 homes planned in Smyrna

“The Anime Club sponsor suspended club activities (not the District) in order to comply that all publications/films used by the club were age appropriate for students that had access to them,” Williams said in an email.

A statement will be released once the issue is fully reviewed, he said.

“There’s a better way to handle this situation than to simply rip all of the books and content from one genre away from the students,” Antonik said. “It was a decision based in ignorance, a lack of understanding, versus compassion and support.”

The club was especially important to her kids, Antonik said, because it gave them a connection to their deceased father, who “left a love of anime with them.”

“I really think connecting with the (club) helped my two older children grow through their grief in a way that kept them connected to Dad,” she said.

She is now awaiting responses from the district superintendent and the school board. As of Thursday morning, her petition to save the manga library had over 1,100 signatures.

More:Big volleyball changes highlight Week 3 Delaware fall high school sports rankings

When asked if the state Department of Education had any policies related to book banning or what sorts of books are allowed at schools, spokesperson Alison May said, “Those would be local decisions.”

There was a record number of book bans and attempted book bans in the U.S. last year, according to the American Library Association, and this year is on track to beat that record.

Shannon Marvel McNaught reports on Sussex County and beyond. Reach her at or on Twitter @MarvelMcNaught.

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.