POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – While still available, the 16 books that were reviewed for alleged “harmful and obscene material” will be under new restrictions at Polk County school libraries.
“Books from the 2022 review should not be available in the classroom libraries,” reads a presentation from Polk County School Superintendent Frederick Heid.
Parents will have to opt-in to allow their children to access the 16 books reviewed by two committees this year, according to the superintendent’s plan.
Heid ordered the books be removed from the shelves in January after the group “Concerned Citizens Defending Freedom,” warned they may violate state law.
The books are:
– “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan
– “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
– “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer
– “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
– “The Vincent Boys” by Abbi Glines
– “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris
– “Real Live Boyfriends” by E. Lockhart
– “George” by Alex Gino
– “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
– “Drama” by Raina Telgmeier
– “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult
– “More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera
– “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
– “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
– “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins
– “Almost Perfect” by Brian Katcher
The books will be kept behind the circulation desk and librarians will verify parental permission through the opt-in program. The previous system, where parents could opt-out of access to any books, remains in place for all the other books in the libraries.
“Opt-out is the way to go,” said school board member Sarah Fortney “That way we don’t have to worry about anything. The parent has the power and the right to opt out.”
School board members will not vote on the superintendent’s policy. The item was on Tuesday’s work session agenda during the “superintendent’s report.”
Superintendent Heid said the issue had already been discussed at length and did not talk about it further. He declined an interview with News Channel 8.
The concern over the books was brought forth by the group “County Citizens Defending Freedom,” which has ties to national conservative groups. A spokesperson for the group said it was not able to comment Tuesday.
“If Superintendent Heid’s opt in/opt out recommendation for library books does not protect the children in Polk County Public Schools or follow Florida statutes regarding the protection of minors from obscene and harmful materials, CCDF-USA will be left with no choice but to proceed with the final step in our process which is to pursue legal action,” the group wrote on its website in May, vowing to monitor the plan closely.
“I think this will restrict a lot of children from reading things they can see themselves in,” said Kerri McCoy, vice president of Polk Pride and a book review committee member.
McCoy said she believes Heid’s plan is restricting books the committees determined were appropriate for students at certain grade levels.
“It’s definitely not a win for the kids and I think that’s what’s important here. Yes, I know that parents want to have a say in everything that their kid does but again, you’re never going to have a say in everything your kid does,” said McCoy.
“For those that would like to have some type of, I don’t know, safeguard or boundary there. That covers that base,” said Terry Coney, president of the NAACP Lakeland chapter, who also sat on one of the review committees.
While he believes the opt-out procedures “fit the bill,” this is “just another way.”
“[Heid] made the decision, he came up with the method and it’s handled. Hopefully we can put it behind us and move forward,” said Coney.