Sarasota County School Board votes to require parental consent to read anti-racism book
Herald-Tribune | By Steven Walker | February 7, 2023
Faced with a challenge from a Venice parent to remove a book about racism and white privilege from school libraries, the Sarasota County School Board voted 3-2 to keep the title on the shelves, but require parental consent for middle school students to check it out.
The book, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi will remain in district grades 6-12 libraries but now requires parental consent to be checked out by students in grades 6-8. The book discusses racism and systemic racism in the U.S. Before Tuesday’s School Board hearing on the parental challenge, a district committee determined that the book should remain in school libraries since it was self-selected reading by students, instead of assigned or instructional reading in a classroom.
The book was a #1 New York Times bestseller and has won several literature awards.
School Board member Tom Edwards voted against the decision in protest of the parental consent requirement, which he tried and failed to change to parental notification. Bridget Ziegler was the other “no” vote, though it was her proposal to add the parental consent requirement to Enos’ motion to keep the title on school library shelves.
Voting in the majority on the decision to keep the book in libraries with the parental consent condition were board members Tim Enos, Robyn Marinelli and Karen Rose.
Allison Euker, a parent of a student at Venice Middle School, was given 10 minutes to defend her book challenge. She filed the challenge in May 2022, and, after a district review determined the book should remain in libraries, appealed that decision to the School Board.
She argued that the book contains critical race theory, a graduate-level academic framework that asserts racism is more than prejudice, but is also systemic in U.S. laws and institutions. Florida’s Stop WOKE Act banned the teaching of critical race theory in state schools, despite it not being in the curriculum.
“The content of this book is a concern due to extremely one-sided perspective, use of critical race ideological language and strongly editorialized inferences regarding intent,” Euker said.
No board members asked Euker questions.
Rob Manoogian the supervisor of the district’s instructional materials and library services department, summarised the district review committee’s perspective. He gave more context to the review process and answered several questions the board had regarding the panel’s reasoning for keeping the book in district libraries.
“I’m one of those kids that found books and read everything,” Manoogian said. “No one ever said, ‘Don’t read that.'”
Rose asked Patrick Duggan, the board’s legal counsel, if the book complied with Florida law. He said that since it is self-selected reading material and not assigned by a teacher, one could argue either way whether it breaks Florida law. However, he did say it was age-appropriate.
“It is a persuasive piece, not unlike most books quite frankly,” Duggan said.
Several board members commended Euker for following the district process to challenge materials in schools and said the challenge initiated a healthy conversation about books in schools on what is usually a very heated cultural topic.
“If indeed we were violating the law, I would have to follow the law. But according to our attorney, we are not,” Marinelli said. “So, as far as I’m concerned, the book stays in our libraries.”
Most of the 20 people who spoke during public comment opposed the potential idea of removing the book. Many speakers expressed frustration over the idea that one parent could dictate what other parents’ children could read.
“As a Jew, it’s chilling to me that you’re considering the banning of “Stamp”,” Robin Williams, a local activist, said. “It’s an excellent addition to any middle or high school library, and frankly should be part of the curriculum dealing with American history,”