St. Johns County removes 23 books from library shelves after review

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County School District said Tuesday it will remove 23 books from library shelves and dozens more are under review.

The district made the announcement during a school board meeting and released a list of the books in question.

The decision came after the district said St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson reviewed several of the library titles that parents and other community members objected to.

MORE: Book by ‘Queer Eye’ star among 56 that parents want removed from St. Johns County schools

The move comes as books all across the state have become targets for removal at the request of conservative activists and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Of the 90 books that have gone through the SJCSD review process, 20 books are marked “pending,” meaning they’ve gotten a complaint but are still available to students as they’re being reviewed; 14 books were “retained,” meaning they were reviewed by specialists and deemed to be acceptable; 23 books were restricted only to certain age groups; and 23 books were removed, meaning, they won’t be accessible in any district school.

The district also released detailed guidelines for how media specialists should review books, listing specific content that’s not acceptable in each grade level. Still, the guide states on each section: “This list is not all-inclusive. Media specialists will use professional judgment with collection development.”

“It is understood that there may be differing opinions on some titles,” the guideline document said. “Parents have a right to restrict any book for their child or to object to the appropriateness of a book in a school library. These processes are outlined on the St. Johns County School District website.”

The lists of guidelines for each school level are at the bottom of this article.

Districts across the state — including Duval County Public Schools — are performing a mass review of all classroom libraries and media centers after the Florida Department of Education handed down directives intended to comply with state law. The law says that all books, specifically in elementary school libraries, must be looked over by a certified media specialist who has undergone state training on the new policy.

Parents, however, have been surprised to find their schools’ bookshelves empty during the review process.

Free speech organizations, literacy advocates and educators have blasted the policy, calling the concern over “pornography” a false flag attack to satiate Gov. DeSantis’ supporters and a veiled attempt to purge progressive ideas from Florida’s schools.

“I suggest that the district follow the law,” St. Johns County School Board member Patrick Canan said. “But to me, it’s just another example of the politicization of our school system, especially in the state of Florida. Whether it’s the teachers’ unions or African American studies. So that’s a concern to me.”'

Below is a list of the books that will be removed starting from St. Johns County media centers on Tuesday, as well as other books that are pending, meaning they are still available but under review, or quarantined, meaning they have been removed from libraries to be reviewed:

And the list of guidelines for each school level can be viewed below.

Elementary schools:

  1. Grades K- 3: No reference to gender identity or sexual orientation
  2. Grades 4-5 chapter books: May include an LGBTQ+ character but no informational content on gender identity and/or sexual orientation
  3. No reference to sexual activity
  4. No kissing beyond a friendly peck
  5. Picture Books - No profanity or racial slurs
  6. Chapter Books - May contain very limited profanity, no racial slurs
  7. May contain descriptions and/or illustrations of non-sexual nudity
  8. May contain reference to discrimination or bullying to teach age-appropriate lesson

Middle schools:

  1. No crude profanity (F-bomb, slang for genitalia, slang for sexual acts
  2. No descriptions or illustrations of sexual activity
  3. May contain limited profanity or racial slurs
  4. May contain kissing
  5. May contain descriptions and/or illustrations of non-sexual nudity
  6. May contain limited violence or bullying (non-sexual)
  7. May contain crude humor appropriate for middle school students

High schools:

  1. No explicit, graphic descriptions or illustrations of sexual acts
  2. No explicit descriptions or illustrations of aroused sexual organs
  3. No reference to bestiality or sex with multiple partners at the same time
  4. No pervasive, gruesome violence
  5. May contain profanity but not pervasive use of racial slurs or crude profanity (F bomb, slang for genitalia, slang for sexual acts)
  6. May contain description and illustrations of non-sexual nudity
  7. May contain kissing
  8. May contain inexplicit reference to sexual activity (example: taking off clothes)