After a Northview High School teacher and a member of the Escambia County School Board called for the immediate removal of 115 “obscene” books from school libraries until they can be graded, the school district took a step to control access to the books. .
School Superintendent Dr. Smith has implemented a “restricted section” in school libraries. The books in question will be housed in the section and parents can choose their students to access the restricted book while they are being graded.
“As we review disputed books, we want to ensure that parents still have the right to make decisions about what they think is and isn’t appropriate for their children,” Smith said. “We believe that implementing a restricted section in each of our school libraries, from which students can only access these titles with parental consent, will best meet the needs of our families as books are reviewed. The final arbiter of what is appropriate for a child to read is always that child’s parent; not other parents, teachers, or injured members of the public.”
As we first reported Monday, 30-year-old veteran teacher Vicki Baggett compiled a growing list of 116 books she says are inappropriate in schools, primarily because of sexual language and graphics that she believes violate Florida’s obscenity laws. Click here to read more about her arguments. To see the list of books, click here.
Many of the books on her list contain graphic and descriptive sexual language, including pedophilia and bestiality. One book uses the F-word 116 times. There are countless books featuring underage sex, what she called “alternative sexuality,” “explicit violent content,” self-mutilation, suicide, rape, racism, and graphics.
School board chairman Kevin Adams asked Smith to quarantine or remove the disputed books from circulation until an assessment in accordance with state statute is completed.
“The school board has the power to remove books from its libraries; however, it cannot do this simply because it disagrees with the message of a book or it offends a person’s personal morals,” Ellen Odom, general counsel for the school board, said in an emailed statement on Monday. “If during the assessment process the school board determines that a particular book is pornographic or obscene, is not suitable for the needs of the students and their ability to understand the material presented, is not suitable for the grade and age group for which the material is used , or is factually inaccurate or misleading, it may result in the removal of such a book.”
The current “Educational Media Policy Reconsideration” school district states that requests for reconsideration must be submitted to the school with the appropriate title. After the request is made, the school will form a “School Material Assessment Committee” to read the title, review the complaint, consult professional assessments, and consult outside experts if necessary. The School Materials Review Committee then meets to discuss the title and hold a blind vote to keep the title, move the title to another level, or remove the title completely.
The complainant then has the option to appeal the decision to a District Materials Review Committee. That committee reads the title, assesses the complaint and the appeal, consults professional assessments and, if necessary, consults external experts. The District Materials Review Committee will then meet to discuss the title and hold a blind vote to keep the title, move the title to another level, or remove the title completely. The complainant then has the opportunity to appeal the decision to the school board.
The Escambia County School Board has scheduled a special workshop for Oct. 10 at 8 a.m. to discuss a revised school library collection development policy and educational media assessment policy to ensure consistency with a recently passed state law, HB 1467 , which requires school districts to be transparent in the selection of teaching materials, including library and reading materials.