PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – The Putnam County School District is under fire after it made the controversial decision to remove three books from its summer reading list after pushback from parents.
The three books — including a book by comedian and “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah about apartheid in South Africa titled “Born a Crime” — had been included on a summer reading list at Q.I. Roberts Jr-Sr High School in Florahome.
Putnam County School District community relations director Ashley McCool released the following statement in response to an inquiry from News4Jax:
“QI Roberts Jr/Sr High School English Department, along with school administrators, developed a summer reading list for students,” McCool said in an email. “Some families were concerned about the content of a few of the books. All parents were given alternate book options for the students.”
McCool added that while the books were removed from the reading list, they were not removed from the school’s media center. McCool did not immediately specify what content in the books concerned parents.
“The English Department teachers selected the titles with the support of school administrators,” McCool said.
The Putnam County Democratic Party (PCDP) issued a statement last week condemning the removal of the books.
“This country prides itself on our First Amendment rights to freedom of expression. Instead, we are canceling authors who are explicitly telling us what America is great at,” said Interim PCDP Education Chair Mike Eidson in a media release.
PCDP said it appears that photos of very specific passages from the texts were shared with and between parents along with cries of “indoctrination.”
Within a couple of days, the school had been coerced into altering the summer reading list, the group said.
Rather than an alternative being listed for families who objected to the books, all written by foreign authors, the Putnam County School District chose to change the book list for all students.
“The Kite Runner” is a story about friendship set in Afganistan during the Soviet military intervention and has been the subject of controversy before.
“Atonement” is a 2001 novel that “Time” magazine named its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923.
Republican lawmakers like Gov. Ron DeSantis have been under fire for their focus on Florida’s reading material for students.
DeSantis backed the Florida Board of Education’s decision earlier this month to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in Florida classrooms. Critics said it is an attempt to whitewash history and keep conversations about race out of schools.