INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - Following a School District of Indian River County review of books in school libraries that was initiated by parents upset with sexual or race-based content in those books, the SDIRC has decided to ban five books from school libraries.
The vast majority of the challenged books, about 150, were allowed to remain in the libraries, some with grade level restrictions.
The five books deemed “not K-12 appropriate” are Blankets by Craig Thompson; Triangles by Ellen Hopkins; Girl 2 Girl by Julie Peters; Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by Jean-Philippe Stassen, translated by Alexis Siegel; and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
Gone Girl is a 2012 crime thriller novel that was number one on the New York Times Bestseller list for 37 weeks. It was also on National Public Radio's hardcover fiction bestseller list for 26 weeks, and recognized by Amazon and Barnes & Noble as Best Books of the Year. It then became a major motion picture, nominated for four Golden Globes including best screenplay by Gillian Flynn.
The committee said that twenty‐five titles that had previously been available at some middle schools should be restricted to the high school level.
Challenged books deemed ok for high school include Beloved by Toni Morrison; Black Lives Matter by Laurie Hilstorm; The Color Purple by Alice Walker; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; The Rape of the Nanking by Iris Chang; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen; and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
Challenged books recommended as ok for middle school include The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Challenged books recommended as ok for elementary school include Anti Racist Baby by Ibram Kendi, and Blended by Sharon Draper.
In Oct. 2021, the district received the challenges to library materials, apparently initiated by the Indian River County chapter of a group called Moms for Liberty.
The district’s Policy 9130 says “No challenged material may be removed from the curriculum or from a collection of resource materials except by action of the Board, and no challenged material may be removed solely because it presents ideas that may be unpopular or offensive to some.”
The Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, tasked with overseeing the review process, directed the district media specialists and staff from the Office of Curriculum and Instruction to participate in the committee “as they hold appropriate certifications to review the challenged material at hand.”
Over three months, the committee met periodically to review appropriate statutes, school board policies, legal guidance, and the challenged material in order to present a recommendation to the superintendent.
According to a memorandum of findings from Superintendent David Moore to the SDIRC, “While members of the review committee voiced concerns that the list of titles, when considered as a whole, was created to specifically target ‘ideas which may have been unpopular or offensive to some’, each title was individually reviewed to ensure it met proper qualifications for the inclusion in the SDIRC media centers.”
“The committee was of the consensus that five titles were found to contain content which would be unsuitable for K12 students. While the committee did not deem this material to be pornographic, or in violation of Section 847, Florida Statutes, the committee recommends board approval to remove the material from district media centers as the language, and/or graphics, are not age appropriate. The committee is of the opinion that the content of these materials rises above the aforementioned standard of ‘ideas which may have been unpopular or offensive to some’ and are applicable to the school community as a whole. The committee is also of the opinion that when this list of five titles is taken as a whole, the recommendation from the committee does not target one group or idea.”
These comments seemed to be a response to those who felt the list of challenged books targeted two specific groups: LGBTQ individuals and supporters, and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The district staff who reviewed the books, under the guidance of the assistant superintendent and an SDIRC attorney, recommended the incorporation of a library book permission form into the existing parent portal so that parents can electronically select/change the level of access their child will have to books in the library/media center.
The committee was of the consensus that four titles were found to have content of a level which should require high school students to attain parental consent before reading: The Haters by Jesse Andrews; Crank by Ellen Hopkins; Sorted by Jackson Bird; and My Book Of Life by Martine Leavitt.
The review committee found that the current versions of School Board Policy 2520 ‐ Selection and Adoption of Instructional Materials, and School Board Policy 9130 ‐ Public Complaints “lack adequate clarity of both an effective process to select library books and an effective process to handle challenges to library books.” It recommended that the board revise and clarify both policies.
The committee also reviewed selection processes for library/media center materials that were purchased as part of bulk packages of books. It found that “the risk of the introduction of inappropriate material will always exist from external vendors absent of a strengthened selection policy.”
To see the full list of challenged books and the determination on each one, visit https://go.boarddocs.com/fl/ircs/Board.nsf/files/CBYND65F46F6/$file/Challenged%20Book%20List%20Recommendations.pdf.
To see the superintendent’s memo of findings and recommendations, visit https://go.boarddocs.com/fl/ircs/Board.nsf/files/CBYND25F4047/$file/Media%20Center%20Assessment%20Findings-Amendment2.pdf.