Board votes to keep 8 controversial books on St. Johns County school shelves

Parents who spoke out against books in question say fight isn’t over

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Eight controversial books will stay on St. Johns County school shelves despite another heated debate about them on Thursday.

A St. Johns County parent appealed a previous decision, saying the books contain sexually explicit content, child pornography, suicide and child abuse.

“It’s a sad day in America when we have little kids reading pornography in school, approved by you scum up there,” said St. Johns County graduate Doug Russo, who recently finished third in the District 3 School Board race.

Russo was later kicked out of the meeting after an argument erupted with another person in attendance.

Parents and St. Johns County graduates were split over the books at Thursday’s St. Johns County School Board meeting.

“Censoring the students’ reading is not protecting them, it’s a way to avoid teaching them important lessons,” said parent Tamara Whitaker. “You may be able to censor the readings, but you can’t censure reality.”

At times, the debate got heated.

Parent Jean Moore read what she considers to be a sexually explicit passage from one of the books: “‘My hands slid into his hair, just as he gripped my thighs and hoisted one of my legs over his shoulder.’”

Moore, who has appealed a total of 47 library books, appealed the district’s May ruling to keep the books. They are now either restricted to specific grade levels or have content warnings associated with them. Moore said the literature she’s concerned about references sexuality, race relations and suicide.

Titles include: “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher, “Breakaways” by Cathy C. Johnson, “Lucky” by Alice Sebold, “Sold” by Patricia McCormick, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, “This Book is Anti Racist” by Tiffany Jewell, “A Court of Frost and Starlight” by Sarah J Maas and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

School board members decided on the fate of the books following a five-hour discussion. Board members voted 3-2 to keep them.

Parents who spoke out against the books in question said the fight isn’t over.

St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson supported the board’s original decision to keep the books.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.