Battle over books erupts again at School Board meeting
BROOKSVILLE (Suncoast News) — The battle of the books erupted again at the Hernando County School Board meeting on Tuesday, April 11.
Board member (& M4L Candidate/Member) Shannon Rodriguez turned another attempt to pass NEOLA policies into a long, repetitive debate over books in the schools’ libraries, how many books Gov. Ron DeSantis wants removed from the schools, the process by which books are challenged, why offending books need to be taken out of the schools immediately, how book evaluation committees are formed and their processes, and more.
This time, she didn’t mention pronouns in the policies but said that in those policies ultimately the School Board members are responsible for the content of the libraries and the schools’ classrooms. Parents didn’t put these books in the schools, she said.
If those books are not being pulled in a timely manner, then board members have to make sure this stuff is cleaned up off the shelves, she said, saying that there still is “smut” and “porn” on those shelves, and she was going to make sure those books were removed.
“As a board, we need to take this seriously,” Rodriguez said.
She said she wanted the offending books removed by the next board meeting.
“I want to get all these books off of our shelves,” she said.
A big issue was the debate over a supposed list put out by the governor of the offending books, and Board Member Linda Prescott asked if the governor had put out such a list.
“You can do a Google search to find books with pornography in the schools,” she said. “You can find so many books that it will keep you busy for weeks. I will let the board know, and if not I will go into the libraries myself and pull them out myself.”
Board member Mark Johnson said a central list is needed of all the library books and instructional materials in the schools.
Debbye Warrell, the school district’s lead media specialist, said there are two systems, Alexandria, for the libraries; and Textbook Tracker, for the textbooks. Alexandria is site-based, she said. “We don’t have a union catalog,” she said. Textbooks, however, can be seen system-wide.
Right now, Warrell and her staff are working on scanning 24,000 books in one K-5 school, and there are 24 elementary schools to go, so it’s a big job listing all the books in the school.
“It is monumental,” Johnson said, saying he knew they’d be able to make that list.
Rodriguez said she just wanted the offending books out.
“Clean up all our libraries once and for all,” she said. “How did they get in to begin with? We weren’t paying attention.”
The final vote was 4-1, with Johnson dissenting.
“It’s not me,” Rodriguez concluded. “I didn’t get elected to allow this stuff to stay.”
Rodriguez offered this list of six books that she and others want removed from the school district.
It’s a small preliminary list compiled by Monty Floyd of Moms for Liberty.
A major issue has been that books have been removed from shelves and deleted from catalogs, but still are in the possession of the district.
Superintendent John Stratton has said that the books are the property of the school district.
The books are:
• “Drama” by Raina Telgemeir
• “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
• “George” by Alex Gino
• “Rick” by Alex Gino
• “The Sun and Her Flowers” by Rupi Kaur
• “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur
Tech school staffing
A job description for coordinator of career and technical education at Wilton Simpson Technical College died at the previous School Board meeting for lack of a motion and triggered another long debate.
Johnson said it’s spending money when it doesn’t need to be spent. “We haven’t even approved the building,” he said. “Why do we need a coordinator for a building that doesn’t even exist?”
Sophia Watson, director of adult and technical education, said there may not be a building yet under construction but there are 450 students taking classes.
They are marketing the school, getting financial aid from the federal government and the G.I. Bill, and are operating in seven different sites in the county.
The new building, Watson said, will bring some of those sites together. There were certifications for SunTech, she added, and all have been moved to Simpson.
The board finally voted 3-2 to approve the position, with Johnson and Rodriguez dissenting.
As always, the meeting ended with calls for cooperation and mutual respect for the sake of the children.
Board Member Susan Duval often closes the meeting with a video presentation of a career event at Lead Foot City, but several people expressed their dismay and left as it was running.
Most who remained applauded the video at the end.
In other action
A Navy JROTC cadet from Hernando County did very well at an all-services event, finishing in the top 100 of 6,000 competitors.
Beth Lasher, supervisor of college and career programs, said a committee of employees came up with the idea of having a conference between students and industry. Topics included leadership and career preparation. The Celebrate Hernando Grown event attracted 250 high school students and 350 middle school students, she said. Local industry leaders had sessions and spoke with students about careers in their fields.
According to the Brevard County School District’s website, Hernando County School Superintendent John Stratton is one of 11 semi-finalists for the superintendent job at the east coast district.