September 9, 2022

In Florida, A Book Ban Rejected

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A committee has recommended that the Osceola School District restored four books to library shelves, as reported by WFTV9.

District leaders pulled the books — “Looking for Alaska,” “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “Out of Darkness” — last school year amid pushback from conservative parent groups over themes related to sexuality and racism. The nine or 10 district employees and six community members in the committee have been reviewing and debating their suitability ever since. 

Looking for Alaska was unanimously declared suitable for middle and high school. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was unanimously voted to remain on high school shelves. The other two books were also recommended for high school libraries, with just a couple of nay votes.

One board member was upset, arguing that “that all books in a school library should have academic value” and that “casual reads” are not a “good use of taxpayer money.” That fits with a not unfortunately widespread view that schools are simply for training future workers, not helping young people to grow up.

“We have to keep that passion alive that kids have an elementary school to want to read for fun, to want to check out books throughout their entire educational career,” Media Specialist Camille Perez said, calling books an escape. “That’s how we create well-thought-out and well-educated citizens.”

Talking to Newsweek. others pointed out that a process for challenging and restricting books was already in place, including a process for allowing parents to restrict access for their own children.

Teresa Castillo, another board member, told Newsweek: “For months, particular school board members have directed the superintendent and her team to create a process for challenging books, which they did, despite the fact the school district already had a process.”

The process created included a committee to review the books in question, Castillo said, but “some board members decided to ignore their own direction and further delay a process, simply because they disagree with the findings.”

She added: “To this day, the books in question have not been protested by the official, simple protest process. Parents in Osceola County have the right to restrict access to books or allow their children to have access to all books. In my opinion, this is what parental rights is. The books should remain in our libraries as suggested by the committee and parents should exercise their rights with their children.”

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