16 books removed from Polk County school libraries after conservative group complains

Orlando Sentinel | By Tiffini Theisel | January 27, 2022

Top officials from Polk County schools drove from school to school this week to physically remove 16 titles from library shelves after a conservative group complained they’re pornographic.

It happened a day after County Citizens Defending Freedom sent an email to several middle and high school principals stating that “the novels, graphic novels, autobiographies, and sex education books contain pornographic material harmful to children,” the Lakeland Ledger reported.

The targeted books are:

  • “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan
  • “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
  • “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
  • “The Vincent Boys” by Abbi Glines
  • “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley
  • “Real Live Boyfriends” by E. Lockhart
  • “George” by Alex Gino
  • “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
  • “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier
  • “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult
  • “More Happy Than Not” by Adam Silvera
  • “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
  • “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
  • “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins
  • “Almost Perfect” by Brian Katcher

The books aren’t banned, at least not yet, district spokesman Jason Geary told the newspaper. They’re simply “in quarantine” and not available to students while they’re reviewed.

When the newspaper interviewed a leader of the conservative group’s local chapter, Jimmy Nelson, he would not reveal whether he read all of the 16 books, would not say how the books were chosen, and would not share any information about what detail in each book the group found objectionable.

“It’s pretty evident. The books speak for themselves,” Nelson said. “Anybody who’s aware and takes the time to see what’s available to our kids can see what’s in there.”

Previously, the same group complained to the Polk County School Board about its reproductive health curriculum, “including that the anus is listed in a diagram and a vocabulary sheet describing the reproductive system,” according to the report.

In 2021, the group protested at a School Board meeting over mask mandate for students.

Complaints by conservative groups about school library materials and curricula have intensified in recent years in Florida and elsewhere.

Last fall, a Flagler County School Board member filing a criminal complaint that accused the district of breaking obscenity laws over “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto,” a memoir that explores race and sexuality, the Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher reported.

Around the same time, Orange County Public Schools pulled “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from shelves after an Orlando couple objected to it. Brevard County school libraries had also removed the book, the Sentinel’s Leslie Postal reported.

Moms for Liberty, a polarizing group that began in Florida and has expanded across the country, recently began shifting attention to urging schools “to remove ‘pornographic’ library books and criticizing instructional materials they think teach critical race theory or praise communism,” Swisher and Postal reported.

Last May, a Broward County school halted the use of fictional book in which a cop kills a Black child.

In Georgia this week, Republicans in the state House signaled they will push forward with a proposal that would allow parents to protest books and other materials that they believe are harmful to minors, with school officials required to decide within seven days whether to remove the material.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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