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Polk schools superintendent gives a final ruling on 16 books flagged by a conservative group

Screenshot. Half is a man wearing a tie, speaking into a microphone at a podium. The other half is a chart listing "Superintendent recommendations."
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Polk County Public Schools
Superintendent Frederick Heid presented his final recommendations for the 16 books at Tuesday's workshop.

Heid suggested that none of the 16 books be removed from the system, but also said that some should be pulled from — or added to — certain grade levels.

After months of review, Polk County Public Schools review committees have finished going through 16 books and evaluating their appropriateness for students.

The books were temporarily pulled from district shelves after County Citizens Defending Freedom, a conservative group, claimed the books violated state law against distributing "harmful materials" to minors.

At Tuesday's work session, Superintendent Frederick Heid gave his final recommendations. 

Heid suggested none of the 16 books be removed from the system, but also said that some should be pulled from — or added to — certain grade levels.

Raina Telgemeier’s “Drama” will be taken from shelves in Polk County elementary schools, but remain in middle and high schools.

Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and Jodi Picoult’s “Nineteen Minutes'' will both be removed from middle schools, and kept in high schools.

Meanwhile, Alex Gino’s “George” will be expanded to all grade levels. Robbie Harris’ “It's Perfectly Normal," Jonathan Foer’s "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” Adam Silvera’s “More Happy Than Not” and "Two Boys Kissing" will be added to middle school shelves and kept in high schools.

The board also discussed the possibility of a system where parents can have their children opt-in or opt-out for some books.

Board member Lynn Wilson said while keeping the books available for children whose parents approve is only fair, they also have to account for guardians that do not find the books appropriate.

"What I would propose is an opt-in system, wherein the books in the libraries are segregated so that students don't have access to them unless they have parental permission. For those parents that don't want their children to have access to these books, I think we have to honor that."

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

Heid said the district will now look at ways to install such a system and bring the information back to the board. The process will be developed over the summer and put in place next school year.

The books will be returned to library shelves after the system is in place.

"I think we've demonstrated the sincerity in our process and by creating an opt out, potentially an opt in, there's no other solution,” Heid said. “You are completely empowered to limit your child to the extent that you want to or empower your child to give them free access to any material you feel is valid and reliable."

Heid also told members that any future book challenges should happen at the school level.

The full list of reviewed books includes:

  • 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
Bailey LeFever is a reporter focusing on education and health in the greater Tampa Bay region.