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Education

Committees will review banned books in Polk County schools

Stock photo of a librarian replacing books on shelves
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The district temporarily removed the 16 titles for review in January after a local group with national ties demanded the titles be pulled because of their content.

The committees held their first meeting Tuesday night. They consist of 34 adults including parents and community members, and 15 high school juniors and seniors.

Polk County Public Schools made national headlines when it pulled books from its libraries earlier this year.

The district temporarily removed the 16 titles for review in January after a local group with national ties, County Citizens Defending Freedom, demanded the titles be pulled because of their content.

The district has since formed two review committees that will evaluate the books' content — using a list of questions ranging from the book's literary merit to whether illustrations are age-appropriate for students.

Officials from Polk County Public Schools have formed two committees to review 16 books. Each committee will review eight of the works.

READ MORE: The battle over books in Tampa Bay's public schools

The committees held their first meeting Tuesday night.

The groups were selected by district administration and are comprised of 34 adults including parents and community members, and 15 high school juniors and seniors.

One committee member, Kerri McCoy noted that many of the books in question have LGBTQ themes. As president of Polk County’s chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, she said it was important to be part of the review process.

"I of course did not like the fact that it seemed like the LGBTQ books were targeted," McCoy said. "There seems to be more of those."

Though her two children have already graduated from Polk County schools, McCoy said she still wanted to be a part of the committee.

"I am the mother of a gay son and a huge supporter of the LGBTQ community and, of course, their families," McCoy said." I just want to be sure that in these groups of people, that everyone's voice is heard."

McCoy added that books regarding race were part of the list of pulled books as well.

Though she disagrees with banning books, McCoy said she believes the review process will be fair as the group is made up of people with diverse backgrounds.

The potential removal has been criticized by some school officials.

Superintendent Frederick Heid argued the books are hardly checked out, and students’ online activities might warrant more monitoring instead.

At a recent school board work session, he told board members that the books have been checked out a combined 115 times across 48 schools since the 2020/2021 school year began. Some of the titles were never signed out during that time.

At that same meeting, board member Sarah Fortney also said that while she supports parent choice, pulling the books would have repercussions for all students.

Officials say the review process should take about three months.

The list of books under the district’s review:

  • Two Boys Kissing 
  • Beloved
  • The Kite Runner 
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 
  • Thirteen Reasons Why
  • The Vincent Boys
  • Real Live Boyfriends 
  • It’s Perfectly Normal
  • George 
  • I am Jazz
  • Drama
  • More Happy Than Not
  • Nineteen Minutes
  • The Bluest Eye
  • Tricks
  • Almost Perfect
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