Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing back against criticism of new state regulations over books in school libraries.
DeSantis has gone as far as showing examples of the explicit content in the books during a news conference on Wednesday. Topics and illustrations in the books range from sexual acts to how to sext.
Specific titles mentioned include “Gender Queer,” a graphic memoir (in the sense that it is a memoir in comic book form) of the author’s journey exploring sexuality and gender identity; “This Book is Gay,” an uncensored look into being a member of the LGBTQ+ community; “Let’s Talk About It,” a book on masturbation; and “Flamer,” a book about a 14-year-old boy going to summer camp and acting in a way considered stereotypical of gay men.
“Some of the stuff you saw up there, that is pornographic,” DeSantis said. ‘Why would we have that in a media center with 10-year-old students?”
DeSantis said 23 Florida school districts had books that violated state standards. Collier County is one of them.
“Flamer” was found in Collier County high schools. DeSantis said the state came across it and other books after sending down new guidelines and training for media specialists to review which books kids can read in school. This established a process for parents to challenge those books.
The Amazon description for “Flamer” says the author drew on his own experiences while writing the book. A blurb on its cover states the book will save lives, but DeSantis disagrees.
“Parents, when they are sending their kids to school, should not have to worry about this garbage being in the schools,” DeSantis said.
WINK News spoke to Yvette Benarroch, the chair of the Collier County Moms for Liberty and a mom to two Collier County high schoolers, about the books.
“We have to call it what it is: It’s pornography; it’s garbage. And we’re funding that, and we have to put a stop to it,” Benarroch said.
Benarroch told WINK News to call the book disturbing would be an understatement.
“What would a teenager think? That it’s normal, right, to see that kind of sexual activity?” Benarroch asked. “As parents, we should be able to decide when our children are ready for that conversation. And we should be also able to decide how we explain those sexual relations to our children.”
Local mom Chelsea Silsvy doesn’t see it the same way.
“If that book is in libraries, I’m going to trust that the teachers who are referencing that book have a reason to do so because I, I trust the teachers that I know. And I’ve talked to my kids about what they’re reading. So, if they are reading something like that, I trust that they’re going to talk to me about it,” Silsvy said.
Silsvy believes DeSantis is using the books for political advancement.
“He sees the benefit for his campaign to have this ‘war on wokeness,’ but it just feels really contrived. And I really wish he would just focus on actual issues; like, pay teachers what they deserve, give the teachers the support that they need,” Silsvy said.
A spokesperson for the Collier County School District told WINK the district found “Flamer” in three high schools. Students are no longer able to check out that book. DeSantis’ office says the book must be banned at the district level.
In Lee and Collier counties, parents can stop their children from checking out a certain book by putting controls on their accounts. As of January, media specialists in Collier County finished new training and started reviewing every book in the school district.
Lee and Collier counties also have a process where parents can challenge books. In Lee County, parents challenged more than 30 books during the last school year. Only one book, “Fly on the Wall,” was removed. That book is described by Google Books as a story of a 12-year-old boy going on a solo adventure halfway around the world to prove his independence over his protective family.