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UPDATE: Unraveling what's really happening in Florida school libraries
On Tuesday, Popular Information reported that librarians in Charlotte County, Florida, were instructed by the school district superintendent to remove all books with LGBTQ characters. This story was based on a document dated July 24, 2023, obtained from the school district through a public records request. The request, filed by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, sought "electronic records of district and school decisions regarding classroom and library materials."
The July 24 document memorialized a conversation between Charlotte County Superintendent Mark Vianello and district librarians. And it was extremely clear. "Are we removing books from any school or media center, Prek-12 if a character has, for example, two mothers or because there is a gay best friend or a main character is gay?" the librarians asked. Vianello answered, "Yes."
Prior to publication, Popular Information contacted the Charlotte County School District and asked if this guidance was "still valid." The school district, through a spokesperson, ultimately provided a lengthy statement. The statement never suggested the document had been invalidated or superseded. Rather, the school district defended the document and said it reflected what the school district was required to do under Florida law.
In the afternoon, the Charlotte County School District spokesperson reached out to Popular Information again with a slightly different story. The spokesperson said that books with LGBTQ characters were removed from K-8 libraries but were available in the district's high school libraries. Popular Information asked when the district's policy had changed and for a copy of the revised policy. The spokesperson said there was no other written policy and that "further guidance to educators" was provided as part of a "discussion" of the original policy.
Popular Information has obtained logs of the books recently removed from Charlotte County high school libraries. The logs, which were produced in response to a public records request filed by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, reveal the books removed from the date the original guidance was issued through the beginning of September. The logs show that numerous books with LGBTQ characters were removed from high school libraries just prior to the start of the school year. Books with LGBTQ characters that were taken off the shelves include The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings, Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, Scythe by Neal Schusterman, and Attack on Titan by Ryo Suzukaze.
Popular Information asked the Charlotte County School District why these books and other books with LGBTQ characters were removed from high school libraries after July 24. The school district did not immediately respond.