The Hillsborough County School Board has expanded a proposed book ban county-wide as it voted 4-3 to remove the book, “This Book is Gay” from all middle school library shelves in Hillsborough County as of Tuesday. More than 50 speakers were at public comment regarding the age appropriateness of the book. The book was approved by two committees unanimously at Pierce Middle School. Two parents with no children attending that school challenged the book based on sexually explicit language and depictions, putting the matter before the board. School Board Attorney Jim Turner cautioned that the only thing before the board was deciding whether to accept this appeal for Pierce Middle School and that anything further would open them up to legal challenges for not following the evaluation process.
“A motion on the floor of the superintendent’s recommendation, which is to not allow ‘This Book Is Gay’ in any middle school in Hillsborough County… That I understood the recommendation would be limited to Pierce, the superintendent went broader than was noticed today.”
Nadia Combs Jessica Vaughn and Karen Perez did not vote to ban it from all middle schools since they had only agreed to consider it just for Pierce Middle School. Board member Patti Rendon had dictated Florida Statutes such as 847 to explain why they had a responsibility to keep pornographic materials out of some schools. She made the motion to ban it. Some high school students said that the book provides valuable nonfiction information. Naydeli Laffita is a senior at Leto High School.
“Movies showed men and woman relationships but never anything else. I just needed someone to tell me that it was okay to like whomever I needed. I wanted to share my story not for pity, but to spread awareness of the problems behind being in the LGBTQ community that go unproved on a day to day basis. If I had this book in middle school, it would have made it easier to discover my true self, someone who isn’t afraid to love whom they love. This book gives awareness to a topic that is barely represented. At the end of the book states many resources kids can go to if they ever need help or someone to relate to. Just like I did.”
School Board Member Stacy Hahn mentioned that there will be a workshop next month to review the book evaluation process for Hillsborough County.