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Hernando School Board approves removal of Two Books

BROOKSVILLE (Suncoast News) — With no comment at all from board members, the Hernando County School Board on Oct. 24 unanimously approved the removal of the books “It’s So Amazing” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

The two had been challenged and the review panel had recommended that they be removed so students would not have access to them.

Even so, several public commenters read sexually explicit passages from several books that have been objected to but not removed, and board members were told they should be ashamed that these books still were available.

Those books were “The Bluest Eye,” “13 Reasons Why,” “Red Hood,” “Fade,” “Push” and “Sold.”

Board members sat quietly as passages with the “f-word,” “n-word” and explicit terms for sexual acts as well as male and female reproductive parts were read into the record. A few parents who had children with them left the chambers.

Julie Thomas of Moms for Liberty said the district should be keeping inappropriate materials out of the hands of minors.

School Superintendent John Stratton said procedures for book challenges are being followed, and that the board approved his recommendation that the two books listed for the meeting be removed, but few of those who have made books an issue seemed satisfied.

One member of Moms for Liberty said the book review panels are biased, with members of teachers unions sitting on them.

Board member Shannon Rodriguez said the book “Push” was put back in schools. 

“That was the raunchiest, the filthiest pornography that any child should be allowed to see,” she said. “It’s disgusting, it’s dirty, it’s filthy.”

Rodriguez thanked Monty Floyd and Thomas of Moms for Liberty for their work. While other counties seem to be unconcerned, she said, or dismissing it as a political situation, they’re keeping the issue at the forefront.

“Thank you for cleaning the filth off the shelves of these libraries,” she said.

Navy veteran honored

Mark Thomas, a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Winding Waters K-8, received and gave thanks at the meeting. He was honored as the district’s veteran of the month.

He is from a proud military family, and joined the Navy in 1979, said administrator Kari O’Rourke, attending aviation school and then serving at Naval Air Station Moffet Field in California on the flight line for a squadron of 21 P-3 Orion aircraft. These planes are still in use today, and are military versions of the Lockheed Electra turboprop airliner. Recently, they were used to try to find survivors and wreckage of the submersible that was in the accident near the Titanic.

Thomas learned how to use a launch-and-recover and tow vehicle to move those large aircraft around and into hangars with very narrow clearances in width without any mishaps. 

He trained in the famous airship hangar at Lakehurst, N.J., where the Hindenburg would be stored between flights.

He left the Navy as a Petty Officer First Class, says the pledge at Winding Waters every day, and is a fighter and survivor.

“I know him to be a leader, a fighter and a survivor,” O’Rourke said. “He is a problem-solver and a world-changer, and we are blessed to have him on our Winding Waters staff.”


Thomas received a standing ovation from the crowd at the meeting.

He said he was wearing a “KIA pin” for his uncle Vincent; for his father, who served in the Army; a Marine pin for his son; his Navy pin and in the center a pin for his grandfather.

“I want to thank all the board members from the bottom of my heart, taxpayers, anyone involved in providing the outstanding insurance opportunities we have as staff at this school,” Thomas said.

The School Board agreed to pay the increase in health insurance for employees, and Thomas said he was grateful because the district’s coverage enabled him to overcome health issues in his life that would have bankrupted him had he not had the coverage.

New school needed

Board member Mark Johnson said a new school is needed. That’s becoming more apparent.

“We can’t kick the can down the road anymore,” he said. “There’s no road left.”

With the coming growth the east side needs a school, and Rodriguez said that despite some opposition the district should bond against revenue to fund it.

The board’s poor planning, she said, put them in this position and the students, parents and schools are paying the price with actions like zoning Nature Coast.

It’s time for a change, Rodriguez said, and Stratton may have gotten an award, but there are things he needs to do.

Stratton said he sees awesome schools everywhere in the county, not just in the magnet schools, and other schools that aren’t magnets have special programs.

“I just want to speak up for every one of my schools,” he said.

In other action

• Several parents of students at Nature Coast Technical High School asked that the school not eventually be zoned, even though the board clarified that students who are in the magnet program will not lose their slot at the school. The board had its first reading of the proposed rezoning plan.

• Issues involving student discipline came up a few times, with reports of a child being pepper-sprayed by a deputy and a student cursing out a teacher. Johnson said the pulling of fire alarms and bomb threats have to stop, and students must learn respect, he said.

• Student Representative Rhylee Rhineberger of Weeki Wachee High School gave an update on events at schools around the district, noting that Brooksville Elementary has its Unity Day and Red Ribbon week, and Chocachatti wrapped up a cookie dough fundraiser. Schools are getting ready for Halloween events and Veterans Day honors, and on Nov. 18 West Hernando Middle School is holding an Astronomy Night.

• Johnson objected to changes where staff members see their job titles changed so they can get paid more. “It’s a way to favor certain employees,” he said. Stratton contended that they are making changes because some employees are “grossly” underpaid. Even so, Johnson was part of the 5-0 votes to approve changes.

• The board voted 5-0 to approve renewing the $825,000 contract with TPG Cultural Exchange Program for 66 teachers from overseas. They come for three years and can extend for two more years.