There have been reports in the news media recently about a challenge to some library books in our school system.
I wanted to take a moment to provide an update on our plans for a thorough review of these books as well as explain how this situation arose.
Some time ago, I was contacted by a stakeholder group who expressed concerns regarding a number of books (listed below) that were available in multiple school libraries based upon their belief that these books were “offensive.”
Our typical process would allow for a book to be challenged at the individual school level. However, this stakeholder group recently shared that they felt 16 books were in violation of two specific Florida Statutes (F.S. 847.012 and 847.001, respectively).
The claim of a legal violation is what led me to the decision to temporarily pause the distribution of the books in question until such time as we can conduct a review of each item.
I have been asked by others why did I decide to pause the distribution of these books and elevate their review to the district level. I believe it is important to share my reasons with you.
- The escalation from a “concern” that a book is offensive to an allegation that we are in violation of statute justifies the need to pause the distribution of these books and conduct a district-level review.
- As superintendent, I am obligated to investigate any allegation that we are in violation of the law. We must conduct a thorough review that provides reassurance that we take these issues seriously. We must also proceed with transparency so the community can have confidence in this process and its final outcome.
- Placing this review at the school level would create an unnecessary burden on multiple schools to conduct separate reviews. Their decisions might also be met with further challenges, which would ultimately result in a district-level review.
- The two statutes cited state that these allegations could result in a felony charge for each and every event. As such, I feel that I must protect my staff from the possibility of potential criminal charges. Pausing their distribution ensures that my staff is protected while this review process takes place.
We are now organizing committees that will serve as the review panel for these books. Polk County parents seeking to serve on these committees can submit an online application. High school students can also apply to serve as committee members, but a parent waiver will be required to access the content. Committee membership is limited and requires a significant commitment of personal time to participate. Click here for more information and to access the online application.
Committee meetings will be held openly. The meeting schedule will be advertised if members of the public wish to attend. Meetings will also be recorded and posted for the community to view.
I believe in transparency, and these steps we have taken will address this situation orderly and fairly.
You can watch today’s Polk County School Board work session for a detailed presentation and discussion about how this review process will unfold.
Polk County Public Schools
The books identified for review:
- Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Drama by Raina Telgemeier
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer
- George by Alex Gino
- I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings
- It’s Perfectly Normal by Robbie Harris
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
- Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
- Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
- Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
- Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
- The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines