School Board bounces one book from school library shelves
Book Challenge Update - January 29, 2024
BROOKSVILLE (Suncoast News) – After vehement argument and a repetition of the traditional rhetoric from both sides over the content of books in the schools’ libraries, the Hernando County School Board removed one book from its school library shelves and limited another book to high schools.
Amid repeated warnings from board member Shannon Rodriguez of the legal risks of allowing books with “pornographic” or “obscene material,” the other four challenged books will stay in the schools.
The book “Sold,” by Patricia McCormick, was removed on a 5-0 vote. “Sold” is about a girl in Nepal whose father sells her into sexual slavery. The committee that evaluated the book recommended on a 5-2 vote that it be removed.
“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo was kept for high schools only on a 3-2 vote, with board members Mark Johnson and Rodriguez dissenting. The committee that evaluated the book recommended on a 6-1 vote that it be kept but limited to high schools.
The argument over the remaining books lasted nearly five hours.
The book “Two Boys Kissing,” written by David Levithan, was recommended to stay on a 5-1 committee vote, and was kept on a 3-2 board vote, with Johnson and Rodriguez dissenting.
“Speak: The Graphic Novel” by Laurie Halse Anderson, was recommended to be kept on a 5-2 committee vote and the vote was 3-2, with Johnson and Rodriguez dissenting, to keep the book in the schools.
“Eleanor and Park,” written by Rainbow Rowell, was recommended by the committee to stay on a 4-1 vote and the vote was 3-2 with Johnson and Rodriguez dissenting to keep the book in the schools.
“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi was recommended by the committee to be kept on a 7-0 vote. The vote was 3-2 to keep it, with Johnson and Rodriguez dissenting.
The committee that reviewed “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo recommended on a 6-1 vote that the book be kept but for high school students only. The motion was amended on a 4-1 vote with Johnson dissenting, and the School Board vote to keep the book only in high schools was 3-2, with Johnson and Rodriguez dissenting.
Residents Aja Moore and Kim Mulrooney repeatedly went to the podium in defense of the books, with Moore asking repeatedly where students were being forced to read these books.
Rodriguez repeatedly stated that allowing such material into the schools was a violation of state law, and that sending excerpts of the books to a child could result in an adult being arrested, charged and labeled a sex offender for life.
“How are we doing our job and our justice to these minors when we are putting this stuff in their hands?” she asked. “None of this has literary value.”
Johnson dismissed “Stamped” as the work of a Communist, adding, “This is obviously a ‘woke’ book,” and also contains Critical Race Theory, which the state does not allow.
“This is racist nonsense. It violates our state constitution,” he said. “This is garbage. It has no place being the schools. It teaches hatred. Period.”
Rodriguez said she gets no enjoyment from fighting the books. If you tell children to stay away from something, they go toward it.
“We cannot promise that the kids won’t see stuff that their parents don’t want them to see,” she said. “Here is the problem with these books. They’re there.”
In public comment, Mary Mazzuco suggested that perhaps the best approach might be to close the libraries and use the space for classrooms.
“Why do we even have a library when we can be using that space?” she asked.
Rodriguez expressed a similar view, saying the libraries are wasted space.
Earlier Tuesday, at the County Commission meeting, public commenters Diane Liptak and Brad Benson turned public comment on a proclamation regarding Human Trafficking Awareness Month into long diatribes against Hernando County’s public schools, alleged “pornography” in the schools’ libraries, the supposed efforts of district teachers and administrators to “groom” children into alternate sexualities and sexual activity, and much criticism of Superintendent John Stratton.
County Commissioners were eager to speak out against the library books, which they said are being removed from schools but not “banned,” so if parents want to expose their children to such material they can take their children to the public library.
Commission Chairperson Elizabeth Narverud said if an adult sends a sexually explicit passage in any book to a child, that adult can be prosecuted, and any book with sex in it should be removed from the schools.