Library Purchases Paused by Florida Superintendent—to Keep Media Specialists "Safe" | Censorship Roundup

New policies are impacting school library purchases in Pennsylvania and Florida; one Texas district cancels its Scholastic Book Fairs for the year; and a South Carolina state senator threatens to eliminate the salaries of public library executives in his county in the latest Censorship Roundup.

Superintendent halts book purchases to keep media specialists "safe"

Collier County (FL) Public Schools superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton told Fox4 that she is trying to keep the district’s media specialists “safe,” so they will not be able to order new books now due to a lack of guidance from the state.

"We’re waiting to see what media center person at the schools will now have the responsibility to certify all the books that we order," Patton said.

School board chair Jen Mitchell told Fox4 that the board will meet and finalize the guidance in September.

Florida House Bill 1467, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis effective July 1, 2022, requires the Florida Department of Education to create “an online training program for school librarians, media specialists, and other personnel involved in the selection and maintenance of library media and collections or materials maintained on a reading list.” Beginning January 1, 2023, media center employees must complete the online program prior to reviewing and selecting age-appropriate materials and library resources. 

Sarasota County (FL) School District officials reported a similar decision to halt all book purchases and donations until January 2023 in order to give the Florida Department of Education time to communicate additional guidance, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. District spokesperson Kelsey Whealy said that while already scheduled book fairs will go on as planned, new ones may not be scheduled until the spring.

Central Bucks, PA, librarians will need approval for purchases

In a 6-3 vote, the Central Bucks (PA) School District school board approved a policy requiring the superintendent or other designees to approve all school library purchases, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Board policy says, “Sexualized content that falls short of material prohibited by criminal laws is nonetheless generally inappropriate and/or unnecessary for minors in school. The District will prioritize inclusion of quality materials suitable for educational goals and worthwhile for the limited amount of time available to students that do not contain sexualized content.”

Superintendent Abram Lucabaugh told the Inquirer that he will appoint “a handful” of administrators, teachers, librarians, and educational professionals to develop a process for parents to challenge reading materials, and guidelines for determining what may be considered “age-inappropriate, gratuitous content” when selecting school library books.

In a letter posted on the district website, Lucabaugh wrote, “One of the policy’s misinterpretations is that the proposed language means that books with sexual content of any kind would be at risk of removal from library shelves. That is not the case. Books such as The Bluest Eye by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, which chronicles the real-life horror of racism and sexual abuse, belongs in our school libraries at an age-appropriate level. So do the classics like The Scarlet Letter or an illustrated reference book about anatomy.”

Texas district removes books previously approved in reconsideration

Keller (TX) Independent School District officials sent district principals and librarians an email before the first day of school directing them to remove 41 titles that were challenged last year. A reconsideration committee previously voted to keep most of the challenged titles available to district students, but because of new school board policies adopted on August 8, they had to be reviewed again, according to WFAA.

According to the district, books will be returned to shelves as soon as it is determined they fit the new acquisition and review policies. Titles being reconsidered initially included Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation and the Bible, but both have since been returned to circulation.

Keller ISD board policy says, “Prior to any material being selected for inclusion, a library material shall have been reviewed and recommended for inclusion by the district-level library supervisor or individual(s) designated by that supervisor.”

It also requires the district-level librarian or another designee to submit a list of new acquisitions to the superintendent who must make the list available for a 30-day public review period, followed by a school board review, before any materials are purchased.

According to the board policy, “Materials that are in the challenge process shall be removed from shelves and only made available in a Parental Consent Area until the challenge process is complete.”

Scholastic book fairs canceled

Grapevine-Colleyville (TX) School District officials canceled Scholastic Book Fairs at district schools this school year, citing concerns about students purchasing books that are not “age-appropriate,” according to WFAA.

According to the district, two students purchased adult titles at a Scholastic Book Fair in the spring. Scholastic Book Fairs often include adult books for sale marketed toward teachers, parents, and other volunteers, the company said.

In an email, the district said their request for a complete list of books available for purchase was not received from Scholastic. The book vendor said at the time the request was made, the district was looking for more information than the company had “readily available,” according to NBC-DFW.

“We were actively working on a broader solution when they made their decision,” the Scholastic statement continued. “We also offered to deliver the fair early so that they could personally review the selection/merchandising.”

State senator publicly threatens public library execs' salaries

South Carolina state Senator Josh Kimbrell stood across the street from the headquarters branch of the Spartanburg County (SC) Public Library and called for the removal of certain books from the children’s section, according to WYFF4. He was joined by members of the Palmetto Family Council. Titles include My Own Way: Celebrating Gender Freedom for Kids by Jay Hulme and The Pronoun Book: She, He, They, and Me! by Cassandra Jules Corrigan.

If the books were not removed, he threatened to author an amendment to the state constitution to defund library executives’ salaries.

Spartanburg County library director Todd Stephens told WYFF4 that Kimbrell’s public complaint about a children’s book this past May led to the book’s removal. According to WIS News 10, Kimbrell claims he has received hundreds of complaints from constituents about children’s books available in the public library. Stephens said that since January, he has received six complaints about “LGBTQ+ positive” books, according to the article.

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