Escambia School Board bans last two books but pauses challenges indefinitely. Here's why.
After a tumultuous several months on book challenges in Escambia County schools, the book challenge process has been brought to a halt.
The decision not to evaluate any more books was largely in response to Florida HB 1467, a bill that establishes statewide practices and policies surrounding the content of school library books.
The board held its last meeting on challenged materials for the immediate future on Thursday night to vote on two books, “Push” by Sapphire and “Lucky” by Alice Sebold, that were challenged over sexually explicit content.
The Escambia County District School Board voted unanimously to go against the recommendation of the District Materials Review Committee and removed the two books from all school libraries.
This is the fourth time the school board has met to review books that were challenged by community members for a variety of reasons. Six books have been banned from district schools, and four have been saved at the hands of the school board.
Escambia's complete book ban list:Escambia County book ban list: Every book being challenged in schools
How book bans began in Escambia County:Banned books in Florida: Escambia schools review two books that explore sexual abuse
Escambia’s Media Services Coordinator Michelle White said they are waiting for further guidance from the state on how to proceed moving forward. The district has received 183 book challenges in total.
Some of the board’s previously made decisions to keep books on the shelves with sexually explicit scenes may be overturned. The pause on local book challenges is intended to prevent time and resources from being wasted on decisions that may wind up contradicting state policy.
The board will also be taking a deeper look at the "community values" of Escambia County that dictate what books should be part of the school district's selection.
Escambia County parents can opt their kids out of library access altogether
Until the challenge process is sorted out, school libraries will roll-out a new system by May 1 that allows parents to have total control over the books their children read.
Parents will be able to dictate whether their children can have “full access,” “limited access” or “no access” to the media center system, including classroom libraries. Parents can leave specific notes in the “limited access” category on topics they do not want their children reading about that media specialists will be required to abide by.
If a child is granted “no access,” they cannot check any books out of the school media center, classroom library or online collection.
Students will be automatically given “full access” unless noted otherwise.
Media specialists, media clerks, teachers and data specialists will need to be trained for the roll-out.
There will also be a young adult section in middle school libraries that parents can opt their children in or out of. If not specified, students will be automatically opted out.