BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The Brevard County School Board hammered out a draft policy that would make it easier in the future to respond district-wide to objections to library materials, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
The district is currently working through a review process for several contested books that officials said Tuesday could take at least a year.
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“The amount of time that is going to be required to do this process, it’s not weeks,” Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Mark Mullins said. “It’s probably not even months. The number of titles that have been submitted for review or challenge is likely going to take at least a year to get through.”
The Brevard chapter of Moms for Liberty submitted 19 titles to BPS that the organization believes violate Florida law against providing obscene or “harmful” materials to children. Most of the books are adult or fiction novels that contain graphic sex scenes, descriptions of sexual assault, drug use or profane language.
“We are not talking PG-13 here,” school board member Katye Campbell said Tuesday. “We are talking NC-17.”
Current district policy doesn’t allow parents to request a title to be removed from all district libraries. Instead, a parent of a child from each school must submit a petition to remove the title and each school must form a committee to determine whether the titles should be removed.
Under the draft policy, either a district-wide or school-level review committee would be formed in response to each book complaint. Members would include a district-level media specialist or teacher, two school media specialists at the grade level of the book in question, a principal or assistant principal at the grade level, one content specialist or resource teacher, and a parent or community member selected by each school board member.
The draft policy states that the title would be removed from the district libraries for four years in the event the committee took action against the book.
Some school board members discussed extending that timeframe to reduce the burden on the staff; members Cheryl McDougall and Jennifer Jenkins argued in favor of keeping the time period as-is because they said it seemed unlikely a specialist would choose to repurchase a previously removed book and because norms and populations of schools can change over the years. Administrators present asked the board to consider extending the time period to eight years due to the length of time staff will have to work on reviewing the books.
The list includes young adult and adult fiction novels such as Triangles by Ellen Hopkins, Push by Sapphire, Forever by Judy Blume and This Book is Gay, an illustrated guide disputed for its drawing of a naked man and instructions on how to perform homosexual sex acts.
“I do want to say on behalf of staff that his reflective process is really critical,” BPS Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Solivan said. “It will take a lot of time because there’s a lot of titles, but the time is well spent.”
Some schools have already removed some of the books from shelves as part of an informal school-level review. If schools choose to keep the books on shelves, parents can move on to the formal review process.
In the case of a formal review, the school district or individual school would form a committee, allow members time to read the book in its entirety, and hold an open meeting to evaluate the appropriateness of the material for the age and maturity level of the students with whom it is being used, the accuracy of the material, the objectivity of the material and the use being made of the material.
School Board member Katye Campbell said the school district should note each book that has been contested so that school media specialists know the material is controversial. She said many of the books are inappropriate for minors, but she believes some specialists likely didn’t know the books contained sexual materials.
“I do not think our media specialists are doing a bad job,” Campbell said. “I actually go from the assumption that our media specialists don’t know that some of these are in here.”
The policy would go into effect immediately when the board votes on the issue at a school board meeting next month.