Flagler’s parents can restrict the books their children read at school


The Flagler County School District will introduce an “opt-out” program this semester that will allow parents to determine which books their children can borrow from school libraries.

The new curriculum was developed following a heated controversy involving George M. Johnson’s ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ – the memoir of a black LGBTQ activist – which led to a school board member filing a report police in November and the superintendent temporarily remove the book from the shelves of the secondary library in December.

Previous cover:Flagler’s superintendent bans ‘Not all boys are blue’ for now until new book policy is set

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The program will offer parents three options:

  • Level 1: Full access to materials in school libraries. This is currently offered to all students. Parents will still need to allow books labeled as “adult content” for high school students and books labeled “young adult” for elementary students.
  • Level 2: Families will be able to submit up to five books that they do not want their student to read. It is currently offered by the district.
  • Level 3: The most restrictive access, parents will be able to choose the books that their child will be able to consult via an online portal. This will be the newest addition to district policies.

LaShakia Moore, the district’s director of teaching and learning, said at the council workshop on Tuesday afternoon that emails will be sent to parents about the new opt-out program. Middle and high school students will be informed about the new program so that it becomes a family discussion.

“It’s important that we make sure we also educate our students so they can be part of the conversations,” Moore said. “We don’t want our students to feel like their families are limiting them.”

But to sign up for Tier Two or Tier Three restrictions, parents must first meet with media specialists, literary coaches and school administrators.

“We want our families to know that our media specialists are available so they can meet with the families,” Moore said.

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“Not All Boys Are Blue” Debate

School board member Jill Woolbright filed a criminal complaint against “All Boys Are Not Blue,” claiming it violated state obscenity laws. She said she filed the complaint because she was concerned the district was taking too long to consider her initial concern, expressed at the Nov. 2 board meeting.

On November 16, the school board heard five hours of public comments – 79 comments – on the subject.

But the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office determined that the book did not violate Florida’s obscenity law. Sheriff Rick Staly said it’s up to the school district to determine if reading material is appropriate for its libraries.

Woolbright’s complaint, however, drew national attention to the issue, including a tweet from Johnson, the author, who has 88,000 Twitter followers.

Johnson, who uses “they/them” pronouns, landed “Not All Boys Are Blue” on a number of “Best of 2020” lists. The “memoir manifesto” includes passages about sexual assault at age 13 and her first sexual encounters, as well as other memories about growing up.

In December, Flagler County Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt decided to remove the book from library shelves until a new procedure was put in place.

During Tuesday’s workshop, Mittelstadt said she would revisit the issue once the program officially rolls out to parents.

“We need a procedure that our parents are comfortable with,” Mittelstadt said. “I want to get there before any other decision changes. I’m very happy with the team so far.

The start date of the program was not discussed at the meeting. Further details will be provided to parents through their children’s schools.

Nikki Ross covers K-12 education, health and COVID-19 for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. She can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @nikkiinreallife.


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