Local school committee votes to keep controversial books on shelves, but council delays next step – WFTV

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — A committee formed by the Osceola County School District has recommended that four controversial books be restored to at least high school library shelves. Despite this, the board members waited and decided to take the process into their own hands.

District leaders released the books — “In Search of Alaska,” “Not All the Boys Are Blue,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “Out of Darkness” — last year at the amid reactions from conservative parent groups on themes related to sexuality and racism. The nine or 10 district staff and six community members on the committee have been reviewing and debating their suitability ever since. They came to the following conclusions:

  • By unanimous vote, “Looking for Alaska” should remain on library shelves, with the majority of committee members agreeing that it was suitable for middle and high schools.
  • In a 13-3 vote, “Not All Boys Are Blue” is expected to stay on high school library shelves.
  • By unanimous vote, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” should stay on the shelves of high school libraries.
  • In a 15-to-1 vote, “Out of Darkness” is expected to remain on high school library shelves.

The board voted Tuesday night to hold a workshop in which they will dictate a new set of rules for challenging the books, and likely call on themselves to read the books and make a decision on their suitability.

READ: Volusia County reviews system for reporting and removing books from school libraries

The original committee’s decision particularly outraged board member Jon Arguello, who began accusing district staff of conspiring to keep the books, whatever they contain, to make leaders happy.

“Certainly it wasn’t a real process,” he said. “It certainly wouldn’t have been the governor’s intention to come out with this stuff. All those books stay, that’s what we knew would happen.

Arguello went on to say that all books in a school library should have academic value, calling casual reading not a good use of taxpayers’ money.

READ: Florida’s Rejected Textbooks: How Prevalent Was Critical Race Theory, Social and Emotional Learning?

In the audience, several women were audible and equally unhappy.

“In Playboy magazine, they don’t have the pictures that they have in the books that are in the school library,” said Joanne Colonna, a representative for Women’s Crusaders, adding that she challenged six books.

The pro-book side argues that books are acceptable to many teenagers because they have been reviewed by literary agencies, and parents should have the right to allow their children to consult them.

READ: The movement to remove ‘pornographic’ books from school libraries, explained

Additionally, they said books in the school library should be stocked with material that can relate to all types of children, especially those whose home or personal lives are not as secure.

“We have to keep alive this passion that children have in primary school for wanting to read for pleasure, for wanting to consult books throughout their school career,” said media specialist Camille Perez, calling the books an escape . “That’s how we create thoughtful, well-educated citizens.”

Osceola County, along with other districts like Flagler County, has a system in place for parents to restrict the books their children can view.

READ: Nearly 1,600 books threatened with nationwide book bans

According to an email sent to the Florida Freedom to Read Project, as of the end of last month, fewer than 300 children in the district, or less than half of 1%, had had a restriction placed on them. Flagler’s administrators said almost as small a percentage of their parents took advantage of their system.

The system is one of the reasons why Julius Melendez, a board member who also wanted to delay Tuesday night’s vote, said it was likely he would vote to keep the books in some form or form. other.

Melendez said he wants to read the books for himself so he can personally defend the vote he will cast, rather than act as a rubber stamp.

READ: Seminole County public schools seek parent input on new textbooks

“The district has made its recommendations, but the school board also needs to do its due diligence,” he said, adding that the committee’s recommendation would be considered.

He added that because parents should have the right to decide what their children should read, he would be more interested in discussing the particular grade levels at which each book should be open, whether in high school or as the committee has it. recommended with “In Search of Alaska”, also in college, as well as any maturity warning.

“There are standards for teaching materials like required reading,” he said, “Then there is voluntary reading, where parents have the right to say, ‘I want my child to have access to different types of books.'”

READ: Several central Florida school districts may have to choose new math books for next year

However, the pro-book crowd decried the delay, saying the committee’s membership, made up of mainstream media experts, had the qualifications to objectively review the books and determine if they fit into the district’s collection. They also took issue with the fact that the district unilaterally removed these books for review without a formal complaint from parents.

“I think healthy discussion is important,” Perez said. “Where do we draw that line? We have a system…a system that has not been followed and is being challenged again.

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