Florida school board member files criminal report over LGBTQ-themed book

Florida

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. (WESH) — Flagler County School Board member Jill Woolbright of District 1 filed a criminal complaint with the Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday over a book that is on school library shelves.

She believes some chapters of the book with explicit sexual details are inappropriate for the district’s students.

Woolbright said she learned the book, “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” was in the media centers at Palm Coast High, Matanzas High School and Buddy Taylor Middle School.

“I don’t have a problem with the book—I do have a problem with where the book has been placed,” Woolbright said. “Some child could be disturbed to read a book that they’re not ready for.”

The book is by George M. Johnson, an author from New Jersey who is also a journalist and LGBTQIA activist. The book is described as a memoir-manifesto, exploring life and growing up as Black, non-binary and queer.

“I live my life by the Toni Morrison quote, ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,'” Johnson said.

The book tells the reader that some parts may be graphic and will include lived experiences such as sexual assault, loss of virginity, homophobia and racism.

“I wanted [readers] to know that someone had already exist in the world just like them; that somebody like myself was fighting for them to have a better existence than I had,” Johnson said.

Woolbright told Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, “It’s a crime to have the book in the media centers.”

According to the criminal complaint, Woolbright said she did not read the entire book, but was upset about chapters 11 and 12. She told the sheriff’s office “Chapter 11 discusses in detail, and very descriptive, about masturbation and oral sex. Chapter 15 ‘Losing my virginity twice’ is also very descriptive and discusses masturbation, oral sex, and sodomy.”

After discussing her concerns with the district’s superintendent, Woolbright said board members were not notified as she requested. She asked board members at a meeting on Nov. 2 whether the district’s media centers had a handbook or policy for selecting and approving books.

“If there’s one book that has gotten through somehow because of our lack of procedures, then there could be more,” Woolbright said. “It’s not even about my opinion — it’s about the state law.”

Woolbright specifically points to state statute Chapter 1006 that summarizes how a school board is responsible for the content available to all students, and that anything that is pornographic is not suited to students’ needs.

When asked if it’s fair to judge the book without reading it in its entirety, Woolbright responded, “I don’t think it matters what the whole story is if those parts are under our state statute obscene.”

Johnson said the criticism was expected while writing the book, but said the goal was to tell the truth about experiences when growing up at the intersection of Blackness, identity and queerness.

“Everyone is making it seem like my book is what is introducing their children to these heavy topics – the world is what is introducing your children to these heavy topics,” Johnson said. “My book is giving your children the language to know how to discuss these topics and it’s furthermore giving them a road map to know how to deal with these things.”

Some schools in other states have removed Johnson’s book which was written mainly for Black, queer youth. Johnson said it was important to document their experiences to show teens they are not alone.

“My book is not what is doing your child harm – it is you who will do your child harm by not allowing them to one: learn that other people exist in this world who have a different lived experience than them and, two: not allowing them to have the language or this particular resource to deal with the problems that will come to them in this world when they arise,” Johnson said.

A spokesperson for Flagler County Sheriff’s Office told WESH 2 Woolbright’s complaint is being investigated.

WESH 2 reached out to the school district but has not heard back just yet.

Some students in the county are planning a rally against the complaint and censorship in schools on Nov. 16.

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