72 F
Spring Hill
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
HomeEducationSchool Library Book Challenges Continue to Climb

School Library Book Challenges Continue to Climb

- Advertisement -

\Since the school library book challenge process began in 2023, the Hernando County School Board has reviewed and decided on 32 book challenges originating from the organization Moms for Liberty Hernando County. They will review an additional 23 books during their meeting on May 7.

Challenges have been based heavily on the main Florida statutes governing harmful material for minors: Chapter 847 Section 012 and refers to definitions listed in statute 847.001. The challenged books contain either sexually explicit language or critical race theory.

In total, Moms for Liberty Hernando County has submitted 120 book challenges with more forthcoming, according to Moms for Liberty – Hernando Chair, Kara Floyd.

“Our curriculum review committee is diligently assessing each book to determine if it meets the criteria for a challenge. It’s important to note that the district’s reported numbers may not accurately reflect the true scope of our challenges, as they do not account for instances where multiple copies of the same book require separate challenges. We remain committed to ensuring that the district’s educational materials align with the community’s values and standards,” stated Floyd.

- Advertisement -

When a book challenge occurs, a media review committee from one of the schools where the book has been in circulation recommends to the school board whether to keep or remove it based on school board policy 2522.

Review committees are made up of teachers, parents, community members, media specialists and administrators.

Out of the 16 books in question so far this year, review committees recommended that 14 of the books be kept in circulation. Overall, since the book challenge process began last year, review committees have recommended keeping 36 books (including three with an access limitation recommendation) and removing 19 books. This is a 65 percent “recommend to keep” rate.

Twenty-three of these books will be reviewed and voted on at the school board’s May 7 meeting. The school board has been more will to remove books in their book challenge decisions. Of the books the school board has voted on, they have voted to keep the book in circulation 37.5 percent of the time (including two instances in which they voted to keep but restrict access).

Floyd told Hernando Sun, “While the school board may have chosen to retain these books in circulation, we will continue to voice our concerns and call for their removal through all available channels. We believe it is imperative to uphold standards that align with the values and expectations of our community members. ”

“Our organization remains steadfast in our commitment to advocating for the removal of sexually graphic books that have been deemed inappropriate by our community members and contradict existing Florida law and guidelines set forth by the Florida Department of Education.”

In general, School Board members Mark Johnson and Shannon Rodriguez have steadfastly voted to remove sexually explicit books, while Vice Chair Susan Duval and Chairwoman Linda Prescott have been more apt to cast votes to retain them. Board member Gus Guadagnino was the swing vote on many of the decisions during the last book challenges in March, giving the edge to remove several challenged books on the agenda.

How Did They Get There?

On March 12, speakers in favor of removing books containing pornographic or racist material questioned how these books made it into school libraries in the first place. School board member Shannon Rodriguez also reiterated that question.

According to Superintendent Stratton, the books challenged at the March 12 board meeting were purchased between 2014 and 2015.

Board Member Gus Guadagnino stated that it seemed like these books hit our libraries when the school board decided to cut 10 percent of their budget two years in a row.

Board Member Johnson recalled that from 2014 to 2016, when the budgets were cut, the school district had to eliminate one noninstructional position in each school. Principals had the choice of which position to eliminate. Many of the schools chose to get rid of media specialists. “That’s where these books came in, and that’s the time frame when most of these books entered the school system.”

“It would be nice to have a media specialist back in each one of the schools. That’s been one of our goals,” Johnson surmised.

Rodriguez said that she repeatedly asks how these books got into the schools. She asked Superintendent Stratton if the budget cuts were a fair assessment.

Stratton stated that the books were purchased in varying years and they would have been purchased by the media specialists or by the person who was operating in that position.

Johnson clarified the reason for the cuts was that the state was short money in the reserves to augment school district budgets and this district was shorted $12 million. He said one of the ways they made up the loss was to eliminate courtesy bussing; each department within administration was reduced by 10 percent and each school was told they had to eliminate one non-instructional position.

He also stated that the DOE stopped reading books and started taking the synopsis supplied by authors and publishing houses.

Superintendent Stratton clarified that media specialists are instructional and that the cuts on media specialists may have happened earlier than those cuts. He also said, “Honestly if you can’t find a media specialist to hire, they differentiate the position into something else. ”

“And that’s where we are now. We have media specialist positions and openings. And I can’t hire them. Some of it might be they don’t want to be in the middle of this. We can create a media specialist position in every school, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to fill it.”

Compensation for media specialists is the same as teacher compensation. Rodriguez asked how the four books were found- either from outside sources or internally. Stratton stated that they were submitted through the removal request process and that at the same time, the internal weeding-out process is happening. “But you have to have a trained, certified media specialist and we only have so many of those across the district.”

Rodriguez remarked, “I feel a little bit alarmed that we’re many years into this and these books; if it wasn’t for these outside sources and if it wasn’t for our community members […] we wouldn’t be getting it done. ”

“These books that are coming before us each school board meeting, are not coming before us on our own accord. They’re coming because somebody else in the community has taken time out and care enough […] to get this smut off the shelves.”

Rodriguez stated that she’d like to see a report from media specialists every week detailing how many books have been pulled and from which schools.

Hernando Sun obtained public records related to library book removal from the school district going back to Jan. 1, 2023. This information is available on our website:
https://www.hernandosun.com/discarded-books-jan-2023-april-15-2024/.

There are thousands of books listed in the documentation (including multiple copies of the same title). Reasons for discarding the books include, “Violation of FS 847.001,” “Board Decision to remove book,” “Damaged” and “Weeded.” According to clarification provided by the school district, “Weeded” is defined in school board policy 2520.

“Weeding and Discarding Materials-
Evaluation of the collection should be an ongoing process by the library media specialist and the instructional staff. This is necessary in order to keep the collection relevant to the changing needs of the curriculum and personal interests of students. Evaluation should include the removal of materials no longer appropriate and the replacement of lost and worn materials of educational value.”

“Strong Language”

During recent school board meetings, citizens spoke in both support of and against removing the challenged books from school libraries. On March 12, Carol Yakimo-Alvelo read sexually explicit excerpts riddled with profanity from challenged books after warning parents to leave the room with their children.

“It does not belong in our schools if certain parents want their children to read it. They can easily access it other places,” she said after reading an excerpt from “The Truth About Alice.”
Yet supporters of the challenged books pointed to redeeming qualities.

“This book is about how rumors can hurt a young girl in high school,” said Kimberly Mulrooney while speaking in support of keeping “The Truth About Alice” on library shelves.

“This is actually what is occurring in high school right now. Rumors can and do get out of control in high school.”

Pam Everett said, “The language is strong, but if you’ve been in some of our schools, have you listened to some of our kids, some of them need to shake up, a call to reality and talk in their own language. So it is, yeah, it’s about bullying. But the end of the story, she did prevail… There is value to the book.”

Is the challenge process working?

Superintendent Stratton stated that the challenges are working, but he doesn’t know of any one challenge that has been made by a parent.

In reference to this statement, Floyd told Hernando Sun that many of the books challenged by Moms for Liberty Hernando County were submitted to them by concerned parents and stakeholders within the school district.

“We find Superintendent Stratton’s statement regarding parent involvement in book challenges to be misleading. The reality is that the majority of challenged books submitted by Moms for Liberty Hernando County have originated from concerned parents, district staff, or teachers who feel silenced and fear retaliation for speaking out. Many are hesitant to come forward individually due to concerns about repercussions from the district or harassment from district proxies,” Floyd said.

Floyd feels like the challenges are not working well enough due to skewed recommendations from review committees.

“No, the current book challenge process is not working effectively. The district appears to be circumventing regulations and disregarding the law by selectively appointing individuals to the book review committees. Despite our organization’s considerable membership and widespread community support, including from teachers, staff, and community members, we have not been provided with the opportunity to participate in these committees. Instead, individuals associated with specific campaigns and union members seem to be favored for selection. When directly questioned about this at the April 9th school board meeting, Superintendent Stratton was unable to confirm whether invitations had been extended to Moms for Liberty to serve on these committees. To clarify, no invitations have been extended to anyone within or aligned with our chapter. To improve the process, we suggest implementing a fair and transparent selection process for committee members, ensuring that diverse perspectives are represented and respected.”

Keep track of book challenges here:

Julie B. Maglio
Julie B. Maglio
Julie B. Maglio has experience in art, graphic arts, web design and development. She also has a strong scientific background, co-authoring a scientific paper on modeling the migration and population dynamics of the monarch butterfly, while attending the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute at Cornell University. She holds a B.A. from New College of Florida, majoring in Biology.
RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.
We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.

Most Popular