A school district in Florida will consider banning a large list of books after a heated board meeting Tuesday night in which some furious attendees accused board members of being unbelievable “child abusers.”
“We have to fight [the school board] about not having porn in libraries, ”said one meeting participant, Katie Dulaney. “You all have the authority to pull these books out of schools … you should all step down.”
The board of Brevard Public Schools voted unanimously to adopt the district’s new policy for reviewing controversial books. Previously, a parent of a child in the school system had to report it to a school or district official. The school could then assess whether to take the book out of its library, which could take weeks. Meanwhile, the book could still remain at other libraries in the district. Now, however, the superintendent can intervene in the process and create additional committees – of their choice – to review the books.
The school board never acknowledged specific books at the meeting that were up for debate, but officials sent an email with a list of 19 books to The Daily Beast, which included Forever by Judy Blume, This one summer by Mariko Tamaki, Damsel by Elana K. Arnold, and Push of Sapphire.
Parents in favor of a ban claimed the books had “explicit sexual material”, and members of the local community quickly lined up on the podium on Tuesday to rage against books on the list.
The meeting, which The Daily Beast saw via video, showed an obvious racial divide. Every member of society who spoke in favor of a book ban was white; those who spoke out against the ban were black.
A woman who said her children were not enrolled in Brevard schools was shocked that the board wanted parents to read porn to their children.
“You have no problem with descriptive, pedophile acts, extremely detailed child rape and other explicit horrific sexual acts being in the books of libraries,” she claimed. “A board member went so far as to suggest parents read these disgusting books with our children. I do not know about all of you, but I do not intend to read violent, pedophile pornography with my children.”
The mother appeared on the verge of tears when she explained that her oldest child has no choice but to enroll in a Brevard school next year.
“My kids are not currently going to Brevard Public Schools because I can not trust that the people sitting up on that podium will protect them,” she said.
She was then strangled by a book that allegedly described a child’s experience of being assaulted by a pedophile – but was more angry at the book’s existence, rather than the scourge of child abuse it portrayed.
“In one of these books, which is currently in many of the youth and senior colleges, it talks about a man who sexually abuses young children in detail,” she said as her voice cracked. “Is that what you want our 11-year-olds to have access to?” … I’m done abusing our children! ”
Michelle Beavers, from the Brevard chapter of Moms for Liberty, asked to share an excerpt from a book she said would show how inappropriate it was for students. But when the board explained that she could not share explicit material, she clarified: “It is suggestive, not explicit. It’s suggestive. “
Confusingly, she later claimed that the books in question were “sexually explicit material designed to arouse you.”
The local Moms for Liberty chapter previously submitted a list of 41 books to Brevard Public Schools, which it opposed, complaining that the review process was too long.
The district’s curriculum policy states that board members have one week to read each 100 pages of a book for review, meaning a 300-page book will take three weeks to read. The board then goes through a process to set up a hearing on the book. In all, the ordeal could take anywhere from six to eight weeks per book.
Beavers complained that the timeline would mean it could take four years to review all 41 books on the Moms for Liberty list. The board argued that its new policy could help remedy this problem.
VAT for Liberty Brevard Chapter did not respond to The Daily Beasts request for comment or provide the additional books they wanted reviewed. Beavers, however, suggested that parents should see which books are suitable on BookLook.info, a site that rates literature at the level of explicit material. (It hates you give by Angie Thomas, a book on anti-black police brutality, has a rating of 3 for alleged “racism and racist comments and unexplained sexual activities.” Meanwhile, VC Andrews’ Flowers in the attica novel about children’s survival, has only a rating of 2 despite themes of incest, physical abuse of children and rape.)
Jabari Hosey, chairman of Families for Safe Schools, accused the board of running to Moms for Liberty, a group he said had “terrorized our schools over the past year.”
“Help protect our schools and allow our students to use the best tools and books to grow as well-rounded people to live in this reality,” Hosey said. “The world is diverse. The workplace is diverse.”
A black woman, who did not give her name but said she was a social worker in the health industry, told the board that parents need to review the contents of the books because their children are already exposed to it.
“It’s ironic how parents want schools to take certain things out when their children actually do it regardless … Parents say [their kids are] not having sex because the parents do not know, ”she said. “Unfortunately, parents, children have their own questions.”