By Courtney Hildreth
I am a parent of three kids in Flagler County public schools and a registered volunteer.
Here in Florida and Flagler County, we hear a lot about parents’ rights. Just a couple of months ago, parents were in this very room, offering to fight in order to maintain these rights. Well, now is the time to stand up as rights tied to education, community, safety, tolerance and acceptance are being threatened. How are mask requirements “parents’ choice” but book availability is not?
Books are an important source of information and provide different perspectives, a view into different cultures, and to many, an escape or a way to relate, possibly even a lifeline. Books are recommended for specific ages and reading levels and should be available as specified.
We seem to be in a “copycat culture” phenomenon where certain groups are essentially copying other states in their regressions and trying to one up them. It’s popular to share and read the two sexually explicit pages from the All Boys Aren’t Blue book. Why is it okay for children to hear these words out of context by random people online and at school board meetings, but too explicit for them to read as part of a memoir?
More children have been exposed to these words because of this trend than they ever would have, had it been left alone. The only unknown at this point is the remaining 99 percent of the book. Just because you personally disagree or dislike something doesn’t give you the right to take away the benefit it might provide to someone else. These books could be a savior, provide understanding, open conversations and increase personal accountability for others.
Did you know that in a recent survey, 75 percent of parents thought their child had not yet seen pornography online, but in reality 53 percent of those children had? Did you also know that 51 percent of 11 to 13 year olds and 66 percent of 14-15 year olds have reported seeing pornography at some point? Internet safety is something we should all be able to agree on. Our children should not be exposed to readily available pornography that often promotes abuse, molestation and objectifying females. All of these books would seem innocent to some of the horrors online.
Another horror is that “Equity” was recently removed from Flagler school district goals. It’s unfortunate that “equity” is only supported if it’s for “me” and not “them.” Equity for all should be placed back as a goal to ensure all children, not just those with the loudest parents, have the chance and privilege to read, excel and succeed.
This brings me to my final concern about how all of this is diverting attention from a very real, current issue plaguing our district, which are the open vacancies and high staff attrition. Stability in our schools with teachers and administrators as well as equity is critical for our children. Over the past two years, some kids have excelled, but others have lost loved ones, been left alone without support or even been exposed to hunger and abuse.
It’s time to focus on the issues in the classroom and provide support for our teachers so kids can once again thrive, feel encouraged, be challenged and most importantly learn and grow as future leaders in our community and world. Help make Flagler County known for progress, tolerance and growth instead of ignorance and hate.
Courtney Hildreth is a Palm Coast resident and Parent. Hildreth delivered those remarks at the Nov. 16 school board meeting.