Supervisor of Duval schools’ library, media review process resigns from role

Resignation follows revelations that supervisor described book describing same-sex couple as ‘morally damning to a student’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The head of Duval County Public Schools’ instructional materials and media services submitted her letter of resignation from the leadership role, according to documents obtained by News4JAX.

“After careful consideration, I have chosen to pursue my calling as an educator in another venue,” Michelle Dibias wrote in her letter of resignation. “Working for Academic Services and Consolidations has sincerely been a great learning experience for me and has grown me in ways I could not have otherwise learned such valuable life lessons and skills. I am grateful for every opportunity.”

Dibias submitted the letter on Feb. 27, as first reported by Jacksonville Today. According to the outlet, Dibias’ letter was submitted just days after it had asked DCPS about her comments in her review of materials in the Spring of 2022.

Of particular note were comments Dibias made about a 2018 book titled “Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World” by Ashley Herring Blake, which tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who develops feelings for another girl. According to Amazon, the book is intended for ages 8 to 12 years old and third through seventh grades

In her comments reviewing the title, Dibias didn’t cite any explicit content in the book but rather identified the subject of the story as being harmful under the state’s law restricting content related to sexual orientation.

“I would not recommend this book at all,” Dibias wrote in the comments of the review document. “This is harmful to children because it is teaching a lifestyle that is contrary to the design of humanity to be acceptable and not dangerous to the child and persuades through adult influence sexual relationships with multiple partners and extreme fantasy.”

Dibias later added that the book was “not only physically, but morally damning to a student,” listed the book as being unacceptable for all ages and said that it should be removed from all schools. She cited the state statute that defines and prohibits pornography in her rejection of the book.

The statute Dibias cited defines what is considered harmful to minors as “any reproduction, imitation, characterization, description, exhibition, presentation, or representation, of whatever kind or form, depicting nudity, sexual conduct, or sexual excitement when it, (a) predominantly appeals to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest; (b) is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for minors; and (c) taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”

News4JAX on Friday spoke with Cindy Nobles, who is the president of PFLAG of Jacksonville, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ rights.

“The ‘morally damning’ part I had to double check that this woman was actually a public school teacher, not a Sunday school teacher,” Nobles said. “Her assessment of it has a lot of her own personal biases in there. And when you’re dealing with the public school system, your own personal biases are not supposed to be part of the equation.”

Dibias did not cite any specific mentions in the book of any “nudity, sexual conduct, or sexual excitement” and referred all of News4JAX’s questions to the DCPS communications team. She did not elaborate on her motivation to resign from the position.

The Duval County school district’s response to the state-mandated review of all classroom library materials and media centers was the target of criticism by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called it an exaggerated response. Administrators, however, were told by both state and district leaders to “err on the side of caution,” when it comes to considering what is harmful to minors.

Dibias’ resignation will take effect on March 22. The district said it likely will not have any information about Dibias’ replacement for that position until after spring break.

About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.