SWFL school board members say law creates gray areas for removal of books from school libraries

Reporter: Annette Montgomery
Published: Updated:

HB 1069 requiring school districts to remove sexually explicit content from their school libraries has resulted in a significant difference in the number of books removed from school districts in Southwest Florida.

Collier County Schools has removed more than 300 books from their shelves, Lee County Schools has removed six, and Charlotte County has removed only one.

WINK News asked Lee County School Board chair Armor Persons if he believes the law has gray areas that leave districts with the job of interpreting it.

“It is I mean, that’s why we’re relying more on our ad hoc committee right now because you get a lot more input,” Persons said. “It’s a little different from each school. I think as it goes into effect statewide, we’ll get a list of books that other districts have looked at.”

Collier County School board member Stephanie Lucarelli agrees. She said the broad law has put Florida school districts in a position where they are left to make decisions on what is considered sexually explicit content, and that has resulted in books she’s enjoyed as a student being pulled from their libraries.

“I remember ‘A Brave New World.’ I remember ‘A Time to Kill,’ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Those were books that I remember reading in, in high school, and so, it is unfortunate to see so many books, some of them that are classics coming out of our libraries,” Lucarelli said. “I think that what would have been more helpful to school districts is to have a list of books that have been commonly found in schools that the legislature felt should be removed.”

Lee County School board member Debbie Jordan said it concerns her that so many books are being removed from local school libraries, especially when children are exposed to much more dangerous content in other areas.

“You can’t really hone in on one topic. So, if we keep saying it’s the books, well, is it really the books?” Jordan said.

Lucarelli agrees and says parents really should be focusing on the content their child can access through other means.

“We need a campaign that is going to educate parents about the dangers of social media. And giving children a cell phone with unfettered access to virtually anything is a major problem. And I think too many people are doing that are handing their kids a cell phone and not putting any parental controls and not looking over their kid’s shoulders,” Lucarelli said. “I believe that the cell phones are far more dangerous than anything our kids are going to be reading in a book.”

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