The book that has caused so much controversy in Flagler County and around the country will remain off school district library shelves. At least for now.
Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt announced on Dec. 7 that "All Boys Aren't Blue" will not be returning to the district's two high school media centers, pending new district procedures that are in the works on how to "access materials that may be sensitive in nature," Mittelstadt said in a press release.
However, the other books listed in School Board member Jill Woolbright's complaint will return to the shelves, Mittelstadt said.
At a School Board agenda workshop later in the day, Mittelstadt said the other three books — "The Hate U Give," "Speak" and "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You" — have been in circulation for a number of years and teachers use them in the classroom.
Mittelstadt made her decisions on the four books after a district media review committee for secondary schools, led by LaShakia Moore, the district's director of teaching and learning, released its report in response to Woolbright's complaint. The committee recommended all four books return to the shelves, determining they are all "appropriate for use and should be retained as a resource available to teachers and students in our high school media centers."
For "All Boys Aren't Blue," which was published last year, the committee recommended that before the book is returned to media centers, an opt-out process is communicated to families.
"In meantime, please remove those (other books) from the schools. We need to not put them back. ... We need to make sure we are abiding by all the state statutes (regarding parental rights)."
But Mittelstadt decided to keep the book out of schools until new procedures are in place. Moore and her team are expected to present their proposed procedures and protocols at an information workshop on Dec. 14.
Woolbright, who filed a criminal complaint to investigate "All Boys Aren't Blue," applauded Mittelstadt's decision. But School Board member Janet McDonald asked that all four books be kept off the shelves until new procedures are put in place.
"In meantime, please remove those from the schools," McDonald said. "We need to not put them back. They’re still under consideration. It’s a nationwide issue. We need to make sure we are abiding by all the state statutes (regarding parental rights)."
But Mittelstadt said she would not backtrack.
"I have put forth my decision on this matter," she said, adding that if the board wants to appeal her decision, it has the power to do so.
None of the board members proposed an appeal.
Mittelstadt praised the committee's review of the four books in accordance with School Board policy.
"It was never about those books. It was about "All Boys Aren’t Blue," and I applaud the decision. ... It's a win-win for everybody. The county gets procedures that are going to satisfy all parents and all students."
“I thank LaShakia Moore, the parents who volunteered to be a part of this process, and our district staff. I reviewed their recommendation and used that in my final decision,” Mittelstadt said in the press release.
At the workshop, Mittelstadt stressed that she does not have final approval to ban a book. She said it's important for the school district to improve procedures to inform parents and train media center staff, and that Moore's team began working on the protocols "long before" Woolbright's complaint.
"I want to make sure we do this right," she said.
In her complaint, Woolbright asked that "All Boys Aren't Blue," a sexually explicit memoir by George M. Johnson on growing up Black and queer, be removed from schools. She said she asked the district to look at the three other books because they were on "Project LIT's list of edgy books, that you keep pushing until you get in trouble."
"It was never about those books," Woolbright said. "It was about 'All Boys Aren’t Blue,' and I applaud the decision. ... It's a win-win for everybody. The county gets procedures that are going to satisfy all parents and all students."
“I believe in a procedure to give our parents the opportunity to participate in that process. It is important that we look at how the author has described his book in the prologue, in addition, he has made public comments as to the age-appropriateness of this book, is 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. Our high schools are 9th through 12th grade. So we would need to create a procedure within our school media centers that have age-appropriate locations for sensitive matters within our school buildings. We can achieve that and we will.”
CATHY MITTELSTADT, superintendent