Flagler County’s three book-banners are getting their way the easier way: the books they’re challenging are now getting removed without committee review, even though such a process is set out in district policy.
Twice in the last three weeks, Flagler Palm Coast High School abruptly cancelled scheduled challenge-review committee meetings at the last minute, even though faculty and community members making up those committees had been assigned the books to read.
Elana K. Arnold’s Damsel was originally scheduled to be reviewed by committee on April 20. FPC Media Specialist Sarah Reckenwald first said on April 15 that the meeting was being postponed to give committee members more time to read the book, as some committee members were dealing with two book assignments simultaneously. On April 24, Reckenwald told committee members that “After reviewing the book and additional reviews that were not available at the time of purchase, we made the decision to weed Damsel.” (FlaglerLive’s own reviewer had, in fact, recommended removal, but not by pre-empting the committee process.)
The decision not to hold the review was reached several days earlier. FPC Principal Bobby Bossardet had written Terri McDonald, one of only three people who have challenged all of the county’s book bans this year, and had filed the one against Damsel, that “After reviewing this book and the circulation data, Damsel will not be retained as a resource in Flagler schools.”
The circulation data was requested. It was not provided.
Bossardet ended his email to McDonald the way those emails are always ended: “Thank you for honoring our process and we look forward to our continued collaboration.” ut the process was not followed. It was pre-empted.
It happened again this week. The FPC committee was scheduled to meet this afternoon to take up Elana K. Arnold’s What Girls Are Made Of, a 2017 novel that was a finalist for the National Book Award and has received–and continues to receive–critical praise. On Wednesday, Reckenwald said the committee meeting was cancelled. There was no explanation.
“Weeding is a practice that our Certified Media Specialists do throughout the year,” Lashakia Moore, the assistant superintendent who oversees all curriculum divisions and the schools’ libraries, said in an email. “If a book does not meet our media collection development, our specialists may weed the book prior to a committee reviewing the material.” The email included a copy of the Bossardet email that went to McDonald, who had also been the named challenger on this title, repeating the same wording that had been applied to Damsel, with the other title substituted.
The district process doesn’t address “weeding,” the common practice among librarians of periodically going through a collection and removing titles that are out of date, damaged, or no longer getting much circulation. It’s under that rubric that three of the last four books under challenge have been removed. We’re not banning them, school officials say. We’re “weeding” them.
When books are “weeded,” no one knows what those may be: state law as late as last week has sharpened the tools of book-banners, making it easier to challenge books and now requiring that any title under challenge immediately be removed from school shelves within five days of a challenge being filed, until it is judged by review panels. The law requires that school districts provide transparency about the book-challenge and book-banning process. It does not require transparency about the weeding process: neither districts nor schools are required to post on their websites what books are being weeded, the way they are when books are under challenge.
The Flagler County School District, and more particularly Flagler Palm Coast High School, has increasingly been taking advantage of that loophole: eight of the 22 titles challenged since the beginning of the school year have now been been “weeded,” and another four banned outright.
It is unlikely that many of those titles would have been removed from shelves had they not been challenged. By “weeding” them, the district avoids not only the time-consuming and media attention on review committees and their decision. It avoids appeals and convening a district appeals committee, even though the district went to great lengths to set up those committees with some 70 volunteers. It avoids placing the superintendent in a position to make an unpopular decision: Superintendent Mittelstadt got withering criticism when she banned All Boys Aren’t Blue, and again The Nowhere Girls, the latter after three committees had all voted unanimously to keep the book.
The one book Mittelstadt approved for retention, Patricia McCormick’s Sold, ended up being appealed to the school board, where one board member, Will Furry, bullyingly grilled the superintendent about the title on his way to voting against retention, though the book ultimately survived in a 3-2 vote. Clearly, board members want to go through that as little as possible, and the school-based decisions to weed books seem to reflect a back-channel decision to make that happen as quietly as possible.
There has been no appeal to the school board since. A request to the district for all the titles on appeal as of today was not answered before this article initially published.
For the three book-banners–who also include Shannon Rambow and Cheryl Lackey–the desired result is the same, whatever the method: the books are out of students’ hands.
Including All Boys Aren’t Blue, which the superintendent banned last year when then-School Board member Jill Woolbright challenged it (filing a criminal complaint against the superintendent along the way), the district has banned or weeded 13 of the 22 books that have been challenged. Two of those 22 titles were not in circulation locally when the challenges were filed.
Meanwhile, the district remains without a process for book advocates to challenge decisions either to ban or weed books. Book-banners may appeal a decision to retain a book. Book advocates may not appeal a decision to remove a book.
One more school-based review committee is currently scheduled: on May 25 at FPC, for The Upside of Unrequited, a 2017 novel by Becky Albertalli that takes a few cues from Jane Austen’s Emma. Reckenwald was asked whether that meeting was still on. There was no response as of this writing.
Wonder if the children are going to have enough books left in the schools to learn in the State of Florida since the Governor discriminates against mostly everything he doesn’t like.
Brittany Hooper Downs says
That’s quite an ignorant statement. As if describing how to give a bj constitutes solid curriculum. 22 books have been challenged. That’s it. So, there’s still thousands available for the kids.
Dear Brittany: Older kids already know how to give a “bj.” Pretending they don’t is the ignorance. Younger kids aren’t interested. Your little group is trying to control everyone. Mind your own business with your own children. Banning is only done is authoritarian, dystopian governments. You do know what those governments are, don’t you?
How do you think the older kids learn that? The schools groom them through books like this.
Chessicka: Back in my day in school, which was a considerable while ago, the older kids did know what sex was without the help of library books. Schools “grooming kids” is utter nonsense. When was the last time you sat in a classroom and saw sexual grooming going on? I suspect you have not. You are parroting your friends, conspiracies throw at you by far right TV, radio and social media. Again, facts don’t seem to matter to the far right.
By the way, why don’t you go after the real groomers, like priests, parents, Boy Scout leaders, neighbors, social media and boyfriends of single mothers? Schools, teachers and librarians are easier, aren’t they?
Ever since like the 1990s, older kids learn it via the internet. Or from their mother’s romance novels. Or from their older siblings or friends, who pass it down. Unless you think knowledge of sex is only passed down via modern writing and that they weren’t invented till now.
Michael Cocchiola says
That’s quite an ignorant statement. As if banning literature because its content upsets three (3) aggrieved right-wing zealots is justified by claiming students and teachers can read many other books until these same zealots ban them.
We now know just who is running Flagler’s schools… and it isn’t the school administrators.
There’s a lot more than 3 people who don’t want their kids to have easy access to these books. If someone wants to buy them for their kids, they can. They can also go to the city library where the books are available.
I’m fairly centrist and have zero desire for my daughter to read a rape scene or for my son to read about a cousin forcing his cousin to give a BJ. Sorry, but that’s not appropriate for kids. You may think it’s okay, and if so, then provide the literature for your kids. In the meantime, there’s tons of books that actually have substantive value my kids can choose to read.
Brit: The problem here is that your group is trying to control literature for all kids. That’s not your job.
Look, I can see how you are upset, somewhat, because the literature is stronger than when I was a kid. Fortunately, it is more helpful. These are situations that kids are going through today, and it’s better that they know how to deal them without getting physical or mentally manipulated. We cannot go back in time, and it’s not a good idea. A naive kid is easier to groom than a kid who has been taught what to look out for, and to make better decisions.
So far, what I have read does not groom a kid, but gives a kid ammunition. Because of the way I was raised, I had a suspicion of strangers, and was never fooled by adults or kids regarding sexual abuse, pregnancy, boys’ stories or someone trying to get me to join their cult or run off with them. Naive kids are vulnerable, and an easy target. You don’t want that, I am certain.
If you prefer your kid to be naive, that’s on you. Instead of banning, or “weeding” these books that you don’t like, have your local school library tag these books for parental approval for check out. Again, it is not the job of the mothers for liberty to decide what Americans can and cannot read, in the name of liberty, or freedom. That’s a very dangerous road to take.
Your assumption is that I am raising naive kids, but that isn’t the case. At the age appropriate time, I have these conversations, keep open lines of communication and educate on how to respond to uncomfortable situations and never to be ashamed to talk to me or my husband.
What I don’t want, is unfettered access to books that may not be age appropriate. Some of these books have cartoon drawings of girls giving BJ’s and how to finger someone. Seriously, those aren’t appropriate for middle schoolers. Even questionable for HS. I’m not naive to assume that a HS doesn’t know more sex positions than I may (lol), but I also want to know what my kid is reading so we can have healthy conversations about what they’ve read. But what about the kids who don’t have parents to guide them in appropriate behavior? It’s a lot more effective to either remove the books from a school library (never have i, nor will I advocate for it to be removed in public libraries), but there. Should be parameters.
You wouldn’t give a kid a hustler magazine and when a parent objects, call it censorship. So why give a book that teaches reverse cowgirl or doggy style to a kid? Teaching about sex, safe sex, and healthy engagement is very different than a sibling tasting his sister’s “vagina slime.” So, yeah, I’ll continue to advocate that certain books don’t belong in school libraries.
As a parent book banners have the right to ban books for their children. They do NOT have the right to ban books for mine or anyone else’s student.
This is how fascism begins.
Not only has fascism begun, it is in full swing in the “free state of Fraudula”. They are already stoking their bonfires — in honor of May 10 — 1933, that is, in front of the Berlin Opera House. As Heine once wrote 90 years earlier, “Where they burn books, they will soon burn people.”
You can always buy such books yourself for your kids.
@My2cents. . . are you advocating that libraries should be “shut down”? Perhaps parents should buy “ALL” the text books and other media that each of their children may be exposed to? Perhaps we should all live in silos of thought or bubbles only with those that look and think exactly like we do? Perhaps there should be no “teaching” of anything “different” or “historically accurate”, or “scientifically factual” at all?
MAGA. . . Make America White Again. . . Er. . . Make America Christian, Heterosexual and White Again. . . Right?
LOL sherry. Nobody is saying shut down Libraries. What is being discussed is age appropriate books in KIDS Libraries at schools. Maybe this would not be such a issue if schools had the same vetting system to put them into kids schools as they do when inappropriate ones are being asked to be taken out of a KIDS Library.
Maybe you should actually read these books yourself and have a reasonable discussion on why they’re inappropriate. And many of the young adult novels are, in fac, age appropriate for teens – that’s literally in the genre name, for the sake of the god you care so much about.
I think religion is a scam and a cancer and the Bible and many writings of Christian philosophy should be banned. I think it’s done more harm than any YA book with a transgender or queer character. But even though I find it morally reprehensible, it has lessons for people who aren’t me in it, so it should be allowed to stay.
Sherry Epley says
@My2cents. . . Also, please define “such books”. Thanks!
Michael Cocchiola says
So FPC is deferring to three effen Moms For (Lobotomy) Liberty and this destructive far-right extremist group is deciding what students will read in Flagler County. Not the trained school media specialists, not parents and teachers on a review committee as is required, not the superintendent or the school board.
Three extremist Moms For (lobotomy) Liberty – three! – are controlling the Flagler Palm Coast High School curriculum and no one is fighting back. Sad!
Since these three are going to challenge every book that could have information that might offend them, we need some solutions – how much time do we want to focus on this anyway?
Don’t our schools have more important things to take care of than to toss a handful of books in case a conservative doesn’t like them?
I think taking all the books they ban (or will want to) and have the media specialists put them under the counter (so not on the shelves!), is a good idea. We will need to build bigger counters though. The kids that want to read them can check them out with a parent permission note.
They do that for PG/R rated movies, and have parents sign a note if they will allow their child to see it. You need parent permission to take/publish photographs of the kids, for field trips, for giving a child any kind of medicine (plus parents have to provide it), who can pick them up and if they need to get off at a different bus stop than usual.
Since we’re already doing this kind of thing just add it to the list, so students and their parents can make their own choices of what is acceptable or not.
If educators convene every time someone wants to book banned and spend endless hours on it, it’s such a ridiculous waste of time that could’ve been used to actually educate kids. I always thought keeping them safe and teaching them was the goal.
On the other hand, if books are automatically taken off the shelf because three people want them gone, who will NEVER admit there is nothing dangerous about them, now that it’s being done without any argument they’ll feel empowered enough to pretty much close the libraries down.
Have any of these complainers EVER changed their mind? EVER? No logic involved in this review process so what’s the point. I assume they get a list of books from right wing extremist lists, and they’re doing what they think they’re supposed to be doing, so they will just keep this process going. They’re just getting warmed up, it sickens me, it goes against everything I believe in.
Across the board, politically the human rights infractions are next level unbelievable in Florida. Laws are being created just to satisfy a small but vocal group of people, who want to be in charge of things that are none of their business.
Would they ban books on how to pass gun control laws, for example? That is an extremely important issue since guns are killing more children than anything else in America. Somehow I doubt it, this is not about actually keeping children safe. It’s a power trip.
The people living in ignorance don’t understand the point of education is to expand knowledge, not restrict it. We’ve seen it before, this crazy is not just going to stop with reading materials when the book burning ends because we ran out of fuel.
Having parent permission to view these “horrible books that will destroy children’s lives” might make sense to parents that know that’s crazy, plus pacify the extremists, including members of the school board.
Warren Boothman says
absolutely correct. In what other area are people with no qualifications whatsoevr able to impose their minority opinion on the majority? Should these same 3 book-banners be allowed to decide what building codes should be ignored? How about allocation of resources for police and fire protection? Why education? And speaking of education, isn’t the idea to encourage and develop children’s ability to examine information and decide what are facts and what is just gull droppings? “No, no, we want our children to think, we just want them to think like us.” Will these same book-banners turn their attention to history books and decide that, since some people don’t believe the Holocaust took place, they should remove any history text that mentions them. Heaven forbid there be any mention Tulsa, or Selma, or…
DiSantis likes to take shots at “educational elites”; have you paid any attention to where he went to school? He got his education, now he wants to ensure theat you and your children don’t / can’t get the same. A key step for facist rule.
The people pulling this over on you are elected. Take names, remember actions, stand up for your beliefs and vote them out.
Deirdre: It’s not just three people, it’s a growing trend across the nation, albeit a minority. It is serious! https://pen.org/report/banned-in-the-usa-state-laws-supercharge-book-suppression-in-schools/. My understanding is that these people are funded by Conservatives for Good Government.
Jane K says
The future of Florida is looking pretty bleak and definitely scary.
Right wingers will force a child to birth a rape baby, but they won’t allow her to read a book.
Seriously, when & where are we protesting??
The fascist have made it quite illegal already to protest in this state. I read some history likely already banned here but I found that Nazis have only been removed one way and it wasnt being out voted in a gerrymandered map.
Sheila Zinkerman Citizens for Truth and Justice in Education says
Censorship is unAmerican. Citizens have a duty to confidentially report it. Here is what you must do:
First send a FOIA Public Records Request (PRR) to [email protected]
Format: Be specific in your request:
Please provide the following Book Challenge documents for the period beginning ______through the date this PRR is fulfilled.
1. Formal, Informal, eg al challenges submitted by challengers
2 Names of challengers
3. Reasons for challenges
4. Titles, authors of challenged books
5. Status of challenged books: removed out of circulation (banned) pending reconsideration, reassigned, weeded, or other
6. Reasons for removal by administrator or others who ordered the removal
7. Titles and authors of books purchased, delivered, but not circulated inside district schools
8. Challenges to curriculum content and reasons for the challenges
Second: After receipt of PRR, forward it to the following national organizations and file a complaint. FlaglerLive’s report describes the questionable “weeding” and removal of books without reconsideration. Report it using the FOIA PRR above. These organizations are professionals who have 297 combined years experience. They know censors’ when they see them.
147 years old American Library Association / Office of Intellectual Freedom
49 years old National Coalition Against Censorship
101 years old PEN America
Yesss! Thank you so much for this gem of a post.
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
“…McDonald, who had also been the named challenger on this title, repeating the same wording that had been applied to Damsel, with the other title substituted.” Right there the Principal should have said nope to her, if she had a complaint then make it original just like he expects the students to do.
Samuel Carcione says
Fed up with the three Moms for Bigotry. Time to ignore them.
Another Concerned Taxpayer !!! says
What are the costs associated with each challenge? Committee’s must be scheduled, coordination needs done, clerical functions are required, and time set aside to meet to discuss each book challenged along with the challenges. Meeting room space, time that school district personnel must expend which takes them from their other duties, time expended by volunteers and committee people’s and any potential legal aspects all have their costs. It seems for the most part, these are simply chronic nuisance complaints made by the same 3 people that may or may not have even read the books they are proposing be banned. There are costs to this process, someone should be responsible for those costs, in some lawsuits, if the suit is not successful, then the person initiating the suit will be responsible for all associated court costs and legal fees. I propose that the person initiating the challenges should bear the costs of their challenge in the cases when their challenge is not successful. At the rate we are going, we could end up with every single book in the libraries being challenged. If there is no accountability, those challengers will continue with their demands for removal if there is no price to pay.
Disgusted and Appalled says
The committee members first have to acquire the book in question either by borrowing from the library itself or purchasing on their own which is more often the case. The book is then read while noting all the pages in question making notes as to why this particular page has been flagged for objection. The questionnaire is reviewed prior to the committee meeting which then takes another couple of hours.
This is more time spent per individual, who generally all have full time jobs and families, than the person or persons who filed the complaint because NO they don’t read the books at all.
Exactly. This is done on people’s own time and at their own cost. Even if it weren’t, do we think the minuscule cost of making sure our kids don’t have access to porn at school wouldn’t be worth it? We are talking about 22 books with clear porn. Not the thousands of other books available to our kids. The amount of exaggeration from the left to justify grooming kids is astonishing.
Brit: Please post the 22 book titles here “with clear porn.” I want to see what your group considers porn. I am assuming that these books have no value or critical review. I have never seen a children’s book with clear porn in a library, so I have my doubts.
Seriously, someone please post the names of these 22 books.
Here’s 17 of them. I’m trying to find the full list, but this is what I was able to get together for now. Also, I’ll provide a link where you can search the book title and get some excerpts so you can get a better picture of the material that shouldn’t be in the hands of young kids.
The nowhere girls
Me and earl and the dying girl
The Black Flamingo
All Boys Aren’t Blue
What Girls are Made Of
Thirteen Reasons Why (not porn, suicide and killing)
The Truth About Alice
Last Night at the Telegraph Club
Looking for Alaska
The Upside of Unrequited
Sold (which have explicit sexual/rape scenes, I personally think should be available at a HS level, but still with a parent’s permission)
The site linked above by “Brit” is the “moms for liberty” site that has been used by book-challengers across the country, including in Flagler, enabling challengers to cut and paste challenges from there, without reading or understanding the books cited. The approach is entirely decontextualized. Local challengers have likely spent 20 minutes submitting their list of challenges, triggering thousands of hours of reading and committee meetings in response, to address the challenges. The commenter’s reference to Sold, for instance (to take one example) having “explicit sexual/rape scenes” is patently, demonstrably false. Do not use this site to spread disinformation. Thanks.
Which books have you read? My guess is zero, because many of these even within context are not appropriate for children. So, feel free to get the reference then read the books for yourself, but none, other than sold, are appropriate nor offer educational value.
The commenter has apparently not kept up with FlaglerLive’s reviews of the challenged books.
Brit: I am going to start looking at these books, and I have the distinct feeling you have not read them all, cover to cover.
Your assumption that Flagler Live has read zero of these books is obvious that you have not paid attention to this site. Another shortsighted, edited viewpoint. That suggests to me that you are trolling this site, just as you are trolling the rights of Americans.
Furthermore, it is not your job to censor books that you don’t like. You are protecting no one, and assaulting freedom. There is no liberty in that.
Enjoy your reading. I’d like to hear what value you think these books provides for kids, if any. The books are still published and available at the local library and for purchase. Have zero desire for the books to be removed completely. If there’s ideologies that promote one line of thinking while the counter ideology isn’t available, do you think that’s a fair existence of available books?
By the way, books regularly get weeded out, so are you against any book being removed?
Disgusted and Appalled says
Yes, what exactly is your definition of “clear porn”? Having sex is not “clear porn” and if that is your definition of it, then I guess we all are guilty of porn. These books do not have anything in them that high school students haven’t already seen or heard about through the internet and all the various social media available. In addition, while the books may have some uncomfortable paragraphs, once again it is reality and real life. These kids need all the guidance and knowledge they can get and I believe many of these books would actually enlighten the reader as opposed to “taking them down the wrong path”.
What Girls Are Made Of should be read by both girls and boys as it addresses young male hormones and the desire to have sex with any girl willing and how they disrespect the girl afterwards. Flagler Live has the complete list I am sure to post.
This is 2023 people not 1953.
So, a girl
raped and you think that
a girl should be forced to delive her trauma, then we have very different values.
A boy likely will get off on reading the graphic description of the rape scenes. These are things parents can address with their kids, not be given it by a teacher who doesn’t know the kids.
@ Brit. . . Wow! Newsmax/FOX much? You would benefit greatly from eliminating all the fear and hate filled ultra right winged media from your life. Come on, you can do it! Try credible and factual news sources like PBS/BBC/APNews. . . get educated, think independently, do your research. . . take your brain back. . . get some counseling. What ever it takes. . . it is never too late!
Funny. Don’t watch either of those news sources, but that’s cool. I know when you don’t like someone who disagrees with you that you point fingers about a news source.
Right now, more suicide thoughts and attempts have been happening among young girls than ever. Kids are lost without a solid foundation and adults like you keep pushing kids toward objective, hedonistic ideologies that are making things worse. Enjoy your day. I’m sure I will because I know my kids aren’t going to be messed up in the head with watching or reading porn too early.
Excellent Point ACT! Perhaps there should be a substantial “FEE” imposed to challenge the distribution of a book. Also, if that challenge is found to be frivolous there should be a stiff penalty to defray the cost of considering the challenge to begin with . . . similar to filing frivolous lawsuits.
Here is the huge problem. . . DeSantis and his “ass kissing” legislature are “ADVOCATING” fascist book banning. Therefore they will never allow such penalties to be implemented. DeSantis is likely already planning to rollout such anti-education schemes on a national level if voters in the US are so brainwashed as to vote for him to be President.
These are truly terrifying times! VOTE AGAINST DeSantis!
May I add that Brit states “The amount of exaggeration from the left to justify grooming kids is astonishing.” As a registered NPA, and not categorized as “left,” I would like to hear from someone who IS an expert in “…grooming kids…” I am tiring of these self appointed pseudo *experts* on the subject of child sexual abuse, and pedophile behavior. I’m not seeing “…exaggeration from the left…” Let’s have some real experts on the subject chime in. I’m finding it very hard to believe that libraries are “grooming kids” for sexual exploitation. In fact, it is usually the very religious, family members, neighbors and boyfriends who do the grooming, yet these same people banning books have nothing to say about that, and instead, are going after books, teachers and libraries. Probably because they are much easier targets than the real thing. These censors have no credibility with me, and why schools are listening to them at all is what is astonishing.
Lower the age to purchase a gun, ban books. The state we live in. Mostly white Republican men are passing these communist laws. They read and live the they want to. They are willing to run and ruin my life. White male Republicsns.
Atwp: Geez, come on!