Parents who want to allow their students to read any of the 16 books in Polk school libraries that were challenged by a conservative group will need to opt their students in using an online form, according to a process presented at a School Board work session Tuesday.
Superintendent Frederick Heid on Tuesday presented his procedures for parents to opt in or opt out of letting their students to read certain books. The 16 books in question were recently reviewed by district review committees after the books’ content was called pornographic or harmful by school board members and a local group.
The School Board did not need to vote on Heid’s process, and little conversation was spent on the procedure.
“There is no vote on that,” Heid said. “There is nothing else coming before the board, We have talked about that topic ad nauseum for the past six to eight months.”
None of the board members commented on the procedure. Nor was public comment a part of the workshop meeting prior to Tuesday’s full session.
The procedures to opt in or out were placed in the School Board members’ packets with the workshop and meeting agendas.
According to the procedure, parents can give permission for students to check out one of the challenged books through the Parent Portal Account by filling out a disclaimer.
“Of the 16 titles reviewed in 2022, currently only those titles at the student’s grade level will appear” and parents must check the box next to the title if they want to allow their students to check out the book, according to the procedure.
The school district also offers parents to the option to opt their children out of reading any book in their school libraries.
In late-2021, the conservative group County Citizens Defending Freedom identified 16 books that the group said were objectionable and available in PCPS media centers, the Ledger previously reported.
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The challenged books were:
- “Almost Perfect” by Brian Katcher.
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison.
- “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.
- “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier.
- “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Foer.
- “George” by Alex Gino.
- “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings
- “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robbie Harris.
- “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.
- “More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera.
- “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult.
- “Real Live Boyfriends” by E. Lockhart.
- “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher.
- “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins.
- “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan.
- “The Vincent Boys” by Abbi Glines.
While none of the books are required reading in the district, the CCDF said the books are “harmful to children” or meet the definition of pornography under Florida State Statutes 847.001 and 847.012. Distributing pornography to minors is a third-degree felony.
As a result, two committees each reviewed eight of the books challenged. Members of the committees included academics, media specialists, English teachers, parents and child psychologists, among other adults as well as high school students.
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The committees recommended that all 16 books remain in media centers in at least some grades.
The new procedure will be available for parents to opt in or out Aug. 1-15 and again January 1-15.
If students transfer or enroll outside the two windows, parents will be directed to contact the school’s library media specialist to add their information to the system.
Library staff will receive training on how to access the information. Books from the 2022 review will be placed behind the circulation desk.