After an intense public debate including a five-hour school board meeting in November, Flagler County Superintendent of Schools, Cathy Mittelstadt, decided to keep the memoir of a black LGBTQ activist off the shelves of secondary libraries.
At least for now.
Mittelstadt intends to put the book back into circulation after a new procedure for materials deemed “sensitive” can be put in place.
Last week, the District Media Review Committee examined George M. Johnson’s “Not All Boys Are Blue”, and determined that it was “appropriate as a resource and should be retained as a resource for our teachers and students in our high school media. centers, ”LaShakia Moore, district education and learning director, wrote in a note to Mittelstadt. But before putting the book back on the shelves, the committee also recommended that it first communicate to parents who do not want their children to have access to the book a policy of “refusal”.
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“The district understands that parents and guardians play a major role in guiding their children’s reading and library use,” Moore’s memo continued. “It is important that every family has the right to determine what library resources are acceptable to their children and that we grant that right to every family.”
The book was the subject of a criminal complaint filed by school board member Jill Woolbright, who said she feared the district was taking too long to address its initial concern, expressed at the board meeting of the November 2.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has determined that the book does not violate Florida’s obscenity law. Sheriff Rick Staly said it is up to the school district to determine if the reading materials are appropriate for their libraries.
Woolbright’s complaint, however, drew national attention to the debate, including a tweet from the author, who has 88,000 followers on Twitter.
Johnson, who uses the pronouns “they / them”, has placed “Not all boys are blue” on a number of “Best of 2020” lists. The “manifesto of memories” includes passages on the sexual assault at age 13 and her first sexual intercourse, as well as other memories of her childhood.
Mittelstadt described plans to develop a means for the community, including parents and students, to “appropriately review and have the opportunity to access material which may be of a sensitive nature, parents having a share in the decision-making process. In Flagler Schools, that does not exist right now, as a district, systematically in all our schools.
“I think it’s extremely important until we have the procedure in place that this particular book should be taken out of the availability of our students for access,” Mittelstadt said in a press release Tuesday.
She said Johnson himself has said he considers his book to be age-appropriate for grade 10 and up.
“Our high schools are from grades 9 to 12. So we would need to create a procedure within our school multimedia centers that have age-appropriate locations for sensitive issues in our school buildings,” Mittelstadt said. . “We can do it and we will.”
Woolbright, in an email Tuesday, said she expects the new procedures to respect parents’ rights, and added that she was “very proud” of the committee’s work and the leadership of Mittelstadt.
“The two had a tough decision knowing they wouldn’t make everyone happy,” Woolbright wrote. “Ultimately everyone should be happy with the weather because the good news that has come out of this decision is that new protocols and procedures are being created for our media centers by Ms. Moore’s Programs Department to be prepared by the school board to provide books for ALL students.
The Media Review Committee also reviewed three other books and found them appropriate. “Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi; “The Hatred You Give” by Angie Thomas; and Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak” will all be returning to school library shelves.
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This article originally appeared in the Daytona Beach News-Journal: Flagler Schools To Keep LGBTQ Memories Off Library Shelves – For Now