Wednesday, November 29

Dozens of books removed from Indian River County schools, but are students even reading them?

The kind of books your children have access to in school has become a hot button issue throughout the state.

In Indian River County, it led to an explosive school board meeting last month with parents reading graphic passages from books they wanted off school shelves.

But how many students are actually reading those books?

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education

“That is not appropriate to read aloud. I have the decision to make if there is a content warning. And if I cut you off, that means the book comes right off the shelf,” Dr. Peggy Jones, the chair of the Indian River County School Board, told a public speaker at a contentious Aug. 28 meeting.

One after another, Indian River County parents and community members read graphic sexual passages from library books that they wanted off the shelves in county schools.

“I’m going to give a content warning every time because children could be listening,” Jones told another speaker.

Moms For Liberty of Indian River County chair Jennifer Pippin organized the effort, thanks to a new state law that says if someone is shut down from reading a book aloud because of inappropriate content, it’s removed.

“It saved not only us, but the principals and the community a lot of time to re-challenge these books,” Pippin told WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind. “We were able to get these swiftly removed with a couple hours of public comment.”

But not all parents agreed.

“It’s my decision what I want to protect my daughter from,” mother Jane Snead said at the Aug. 28 school board meeting. “I don’t choose to protect my daughter from literature.”

And not many students were actually reading the now-banned books.

According to a memo from Indian River County Superintendent Dr. David Moore, 34 books were removed as a result of that meeting.

20 of them have not been checked out of school libraries in the past two years. 11 have less than five checkouts. Two have less than 15 checkouts. One book was checked out 80 times across 10 locations.

“The majority of them were not checked out in the past two years. How do you feel about that?” Susskind asked Pippin.

“Thank goodness. I’m glad,” Pippin answered. “Our whole premise of doing this is to get them out of the hands of children. So if children are not checking them out and they are not reading these graphic passages that adults in a school board meeting couldn’t stand to hear, that’s absolutely the goal of this.”

Pippin said Moms For Liberty does not have a master list of books to challenge, but titles are shared among different chapters and organizations.

“Less than 1% of the materials in our school libraries have been deemed inappropriate and are getting permanently removed,” Pippin said.

Pippin added that she does not currently have any more books to challenge, so she’s not planning to use the podium test again, at least not in the near future.

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