The Laboratory Theatre uses loophole to bring banned book to students

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Florida lawmakers have passed laws banning certain books with intentions that allow parents more control over their children’s education.

However, regulars of the Laboratory Theater have found a way to bring one of those banned books to students: “The Bluest Eye.”

Paula Sisk, Director of Marketing and Education at the Laboratory said there is a loophole to the legislature by holding monthly read-ins with local high school students.

“The problem that we found with the Parent’s Bill of Rights is that one person who doesn’t have to be a parent, who doesn’t have to have read the book, can have it pulled from the shelves, and I cannot figure out how to get it back onto those shelves,” said Sisk.

Students who choose to participate with the group can experience the banned book material.

“Access to classic literature is vital for an educated populace,” said Sisk. “We discuss what happens. What was the social and political situation? When was it written? What changed? Why is now this unsuitable for young minds?”

The Laboratory Theater has six books on its reading list:

  • “Almost Maine”
  • “1984”
  • “To Kill a Mockingbird”
  • “The Diary of Anne Frank”
  • “The Bluest Eye”
  • “Blithe Spirit”

Collier County schools have removed “The Bluest Eye” from its libraries. Lee County schools placed an advisory on it because someone filed a challenge. Charlotte County schools pulled the book pending a review.

The federal changes affect many families including Gayle Smith, a mother.

She thinks her bi-racial 12-year-old daughter should have access to the book, due to the protagonist having physical characteristics similar to her daughter.

“She has the pretty curly hair, and she doesn’t want to have the pretty curly hair, because that’s not what she deems is beautiful, because that’s not what our society deems is beautiful,” said Smith. “She shouldn’t feel that way, and as much as I tell her that, sometimes she needs to hear that from other people.”

The Laboratory Theater holds read-ins once a month, with their next meeting on Oct. 29, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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