16 books from Polk County School Library being reviewed for age suitability

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Members of the Polk County School Board are recommending keeping or removing certain books from school libraries. It comes after a group claimed 16 pounds could violate state laws.

None of the books at this point have been removed, but rather placed in different grade levels. At the school board meeting in Lakeland on Tuesday, the focus was on age appropriateness.

Superintendent Frederick Heid said his recommendation differs from that of the committee on three books.

“Where is the book now, so we’re not looking to expand its presence in other schools without reason or justification,” Heid said. “Additionally, I looked at the recommendation for their grade level by publishers and by author level.”

This all unfolded when the group, County Citizens Defending Freedom USA, said it identified 16 books that may violate two state laws on harmful material and obscenity. Heid then pulled the books off the shelves and started a magazine.

Two book review committees have been formed. Each is made up of students, teachers, parents and child development experts.

“It was never about banning books, it was always about age,” said board member Lynn Wilson.

Wilson gave an analogy. There is a system in place to rate films. Depending on how explicit it is, a film can have an “R rating”. Wilson says that’s what’s happening with this book review – to make access to certain books accessible to certain ages only.

Here is the full list:

  • “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan
  • “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
  • “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher
  • The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
  • “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris
  • “Real Boyfriends Live” by E. Lockhart
  • “Georges” by Alex Gino
  • “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
  • “Drama” by Raina Telgmeier
  • “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult
  • “Happier Than Not” by Adam Silvera
  • “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
  • “The Bluest Eyes” by Toni Morrison
  • “Tips” by Ellen Hopkins
  • “Almost Perfect” by Brian Katcher

Heid will provide a final summary of all recommendations at the May 10 school board meeting. The school board can make a motion to vote, but it is not mandatory.

“I think what we’ve done has acted in good faith to honor grade level expectations, allowing parents to make informed decisions and impose additional restrictions as they see fit as a family and that’s a incredible opportunity for us,” Heid said.

During the meeting, Heid says the district, at some point, will create some very aggressive messaging — to engage parents with the books their children have access to digitally.

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