High school students now need parent’s permission to check out three books in libraries across the Collier County School District after a unanimous decision by the school board Tuesday night.
The three books are “Sloppy Firsts” by Megan McCafferty, “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult and “The Bluest Eye” by “Toni Morrison.” All three books contain sexual content.
Read more:Here are the 3 books Collier students now need parental permission to check out
Board member Erick Carter said he started reading all three books and didn’t finish any of them because of the content.
“If you take any of these books in its entirety and put it on screen it would be rated R,” Carter said. “I don’t want these to be in the hands of other students. This puts it in the choice of the parents. Just because we don’t agree with the choice of a parent doesn’t mean we take it away.”
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Multiple community members spoke up during public comment calling the books “pornographic,” “obscene,” “disgusting,” and “inappropriate.”
All three books are available in some of the district’s high schools, some of which have been there since 2004 and checked out roughly 225 times, according to board member Roy Terry. “Nineteen Minutes” was previously in one middle school but after Tuesday night’s vote was pulled off the shelves of that middle school.
“Last year, these three books were checked out 8 times in all 7 schools,” Terry said. “There are a lot of things in the books I do not agree with.”
In the high schools, the dust jackets for the books will remain on the shelves while the book itself will be with the media specialist. Parental permission would be obtained after the student asks the media specialist for the book.
How was the decision made?
The books were reviewed by the district’s new Media Center Book Objection Review Committee. The committee was formed to help the district remain in accordance with House Bill 1467, passed on March 25, which gives parents and members of the public increased access to the process of selecting and removing school library books and instructional materials.
The committee includes two parents, a community member, a certified media specialist, an English Language Arts staff member, a district English Language Arts representative, an expert in child development, and a school or district administrator.
Prior to the formation of the committee, the board unanimously voted in August to place advisory labels on 115 books that contained LGBTQ+ characters, transgender characters, characters of color, and sexual content. Some picture books for young children got labels.
The review committee determined that none of the books were harmful to minors and that each of the three books had literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
The school board made the ultimate decision to place a parental restriction on the books instead of pulling them from the shelves entirely.
Board member Stephanie Lucarelli said it’s more difficult for students to check out these three books than it is to look something up online.
“While I do think there are lots of negative influences on our children, I don’t think it’s coming from books,” Lucarelli said. “These are not books that I would want my kids reading. But knowing that parents should be the one to ultimately decide. Pulling books off the shelves becomes a very slippery slope.”
This won’t be the end of the book restrictions. School Board Chairwoman Jen Mitchell ended the meeting by asking how she can go about submitting 30 books she’s read, that are in school libraries in the district, for restriction.
“We’re not talking about pulling books altogether,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think they need to be so readily available in our libraries. How did these get in our libraries in the first place?”
Nikki Ross covers education for the Fort Myers News-Press and Naples Daily News. She can be reached at NRoss@gannett.com, follow her on Twitter @nikkiinreallife, Instagram @reporternikkiinreallife or TikTok @nikki.inreallife.