Collier County Public Schools have placed a label on 88 books warning that some in the community deem them “Unsuitable for students.” Many of the books center on LGBTQ issues.
This notice that has been placed on the books reads:
This Advisory Notice shall serve to inform you that this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students. This book will also be identified in the Destiny system with the same notation. The decision as to whether this book is suitable or unsuitable shall be the decision of the parent(s) who has the right to oversee his/her child’s education consistent with state law.
It sits on Maya Angelou’s autobiography on racism and trauma in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and on the story of a transgender child “I am jazz.”
“I feel like this is a little bit like the scarlet letter, like why are we ostracizing kids that are different from what a group of parents think should be the norm,” said Collier County parent Laura Vieth.
The issue hits close to home for Vieth. “My kid is experiencing some of the things that these parents want to not have mentioned or brought up in school, and I’m a mama bear, and I want to fight for my kid.”
Ashleigh Marlin also thinks the labels are harmful. “It will cause hate, it will cause it’s fear-mongering, and it’s hate,” said Marlin.
Collier County mother Sammi Treglown knows what it’s like to open a book with unexpected themes like ones about the LGBTQ community.
“I was blindsided if you will, because I wasn’t expecting it. And so we had to have that quick conversation to even continue the book. So having the sticker would be helpful,” said Treglown.
Mom of two Chelsea Silsby had a strong reaction when she saw the label.
“I think, oh, this is a story about Taliban. So to hear that that kind of thing is happening in Florida is really terrifying and disgusting, in my opinion. I think it feels more like that’s the first step to test the waters. And if they don’t get a lot of pushback, those books are gone,” said Silsby.
The books contain topics including LGBTQ issues and racism, and it’s not just parents getting in on the debate; Florida nonprofits and organizations are as well, like the Florida Freedom to Read Project.
“It makes somebody think twice about reading it. And it also puts them in the awkward situation. If somebody finds that they’re reading a book that is objectionable to members of the community, what does that say about them? And then it stigmatizes the characters that those books represent,” said Stephana Ferrell, co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project.
Keith Flaugh with the Florida Citizens Alliance doesn’t like the labels either, but for a very different reason. He thinks the books should be gone altogether
“Kids are curious. We all know that these books contain material that some people might consider to be inappropriate. It’s going to be a magnet,” Flaugh said.
The school district hopes the notices will help, saying they’re just complying with the new Parent Rights in Education law and responding to parent and community concerns.
Parents can submit books to be reviewed to determine if it needs the new notice.
You can read the list of 88 books that will start the school year in Collier County schools with the advisory attached below or by clicking here.