‘I was surprised’ Collier County school board chair reacts to hundreds of removed books

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Following the removal of more than 300 books from school libraries in Collier County, we’re hearing from Kelly Lichter, the chair of the Collier County school board.

Among the hundreds of books pulled from shelves, 18 are by Stephen King, seven novels written by Anne Rice, one by Leo Tolstoy and three by Ernest Hemingway.

Lichter admitted she’s read some of the books on the list herself and was surprised to see some of the titles that were included.

“As a parent, I looked at the list too, and there were some titles that really surprised me, and I thought, how did this end up on the list?” Lichter said.

Collier County school administrators said following an extensive review, media specialists determined these books had to go because of a new Florida law prohibiting sexual content from appearing in schools.

“Even if it’s in one paragraph that’s in the statute, those books have to be pulled,” Lichter said. “I think there is some misconception that the Collier County School Board is banning books. This is actually just a compliance issue that we are following the state law. This is an ongoing process. We have media specialists that have to engage in extensive training.”

WINK asked Lichter what she would say to parents who have said they’ve enjoyed some of the books on the list and don’t believe they’re inappropriate.

“I have two children, and if any of these books that I think they ought to read, as a parent, I have the freedom to provide those books for my children, I can go to the local libraries, I can go online and purchase the book,” Lichter said, “so I just encourage parents, like, even if it’s on their school library, they can still access these books and, you know, we’re just following the law, and I think that’s ultimately the most important message. They need to understand that that’s what we have to do.”

Lee County Schools has pulled six books in accordance with this statute. When we brought up the significant difference in the number of books in other local school districts, Lichter said it may boil down to staffing shortages.

“Collier County is lucky that we have media specialists in every school. Some districts don’t, so the manpower that it takes to review all these books. I’m sure a lot of the counties are kind of behind,” Lichter said.

All of the books from the list have been removed. Some of the books require parental permission, and some of the books were removed by grade level. However, the district did say it plans to do an additional review of the books already listed.

Click here for the complete list of books removed from Collier County schools, and click here for the full list of books removed from Lee County schools.

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