Annabelle Jenkins gives The Handmaid's Tale to her Superintendent at graduation
(@skiesent / TikTok)

High School Student Goes Viral for ‘Iconic’ Graduation Book Ban Protest

High school student Annabelle Jenkins went viral on TikTok after she protested her school’s book bans at her graduation ceremony.

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Jenkins recently graduated from the West Ada School District in Idaho. Unfortunately, her school district is one of many across the nation to fall victim to conservative book-banning efforts. In December 2023, the district evaluated a list of 44 challenged books and ultimately opted to pull ten of the titles from shelves in all of its schools. The titles include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which is increasingly relevant at a time when reproductive rights are under attack, as well as Jaycee Dugard’s powerful memoir A Stolen Life, and Rupi Kaur’s book of poetry The Sun and Her Flowers.

On her graduation day, Jenkins responded to her school district’s book bans with an act that has the TikTok community labeling her “iconic.”

Annabelle Jenkins protests book bans at her graduation

Jenkins didn’t tell anyone of her plans for her graduation ceremony, nor did she expect her act of defiance to earn almost 25 million views on TikTok. When it was her turn to walk the stage at the ceremony, she stopped in front of the school’s superintendent, Dr. Derek Bub. Instead of shaking his hand, she pulled out a book hidden in the sleeve of her graduation gown. Silently, she shows the audience the book, a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, which she then presents to Bub. Upon seeing the book’s cover, Bub crosses his arms, refusing even to touch the book. Jenkins then leaves the book at his feet before completing her graduation walk.

The footage was recorded and posted to Jenkins’ TikTok account, which quickly went viral. It gained 2.7 million likes and was flooded with comments from users applauding her actions and reminiscing about how impactful reading The Handmaid’s Tale was for them.

After her video went viral, Jenkins soon told the full story behind her iconic graduation stunt, highlighting the toll book-banning efforts are taking on students and school staff. Most of the West Ada discussions and decision-making on banning the books occurred behind closed doors. Fortunately, Jenkins happened to overhear an argument about The Handmaid’s Tale removal and was shocked to learn many more titles were facing challenges. She banded together with several students and parents and quickly took action, launching an Instagram page with the user name “save our libraries west ada” and a petition urging the school to protect students’ rights.

The students had the support of the school’s librarian, teachers, and even the principal. Additionally, they were willing to compromise and agree to restrictions if it meant the books would not be entirely removed from shelves. However, they hit a wall once the issue went to the administrative level. It was decided that the decision would lay solely with a review committee. No students, parents, librarians, or teachers were permitted to attend the committee except for a single English instructor. The committee decided to remove the books entirely without any input from students or the long-time school librarian.

On top of that, Jenkins was shocked when, at another meeting, Bub downplayed the importance of students having access to a physical library and was surprised to find students didn’t want to move to a wholly digital library. She believes the issues ultimately led to the school librarian retiring, stating, “She wanted to continue to do her job but could not bear to continue working in the environment that the district was creating.” That librarian attended her graduation and was moved to tears by Jenkins’ act.

Unfortunately, the actions of the review committee and superintendent at West Ada are not surprising. Several other school districts have gained scrutiny over a potential lack of transparency and abuse of power as board members increasingly take matters into their own hands to ban books and redact textbook chapters while ignoring or even barring public input. Jenkins’ act of defiance demonstrates how fed up students are with book bans and the fact that they are being completely pushed out of book-banning decisions even though they stand to lose the most from them.

Her video is also eye-opening for how absurd the whole book-banning movement has grown, as millions of viewers watched a man act so offended by a mere book that he couldn’t even touch it.


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.