- March 10, 2023
A school book review committee voted to retain “The Black Flamingo” by Dean Atta on high school library shelves in Flagler County.
The novel, written in verse, is about a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. It was one of 22 school district library books challenged early in the school year.
According to publisher HarperCollins, the novel is a Stonewall Book Award winner. It was also on Time magazine’s list of “100 Best YA Books of all Time.”
Most of the challenges, including the one against “The Black Flamingo,” were made by Terri McDonald, a member of the chapter leadership team of the Moms for Liberty Flagler County.
The Moms for Liberty is a conservative non-profit that advocates for parental rights. In her challenge, McDonald said, “This book contains very explicit excerpts involving sexual assault/battery, sexual activities and sexual nudity. This book also contains profanity and illicit drug use.”
But the joint committee made up of media specialists, teachers, administrators and parents representing Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas high schools disagreed. The committee, which included six Matanzas representatives and four from FPC, voted 10-0 at its Feb. 16 meeting to retain the book.
McDonald did not respond to a request by the Observer to comment on the decision.
In the district's review questionnaire, the committee wrote that the novel is timely and relevant, is very readable and has popular appeal, takes into account the maturity levels of readers and is not explicit or vulgar.
In answering the question, “Is the subject matter of importance to the students served?” the committee wrote, “Yes, we have students at high schools who identify with this character in multiple ways, and they can see themselves reflected in this text.”
In comments specific to the objection, the committee wrote:
“The novel is about finding one’s self, and for many teens, this is a part of it. Hard conversations need to be had, and this is one possible avenue to have those conversations. (The) novel ends with resources and supports for readers.”
The committee’s decision can be appealed on the district level. There are already two district book review committee meetings scheduled to review two appeals.
The district committee will discuss the appeal of the retention of the book, “Sold,” by Patricia McCormick at 6 p.m. March 6 at the district's offices in the Government Services Building. And on March 13, the district committee will review “The Nowhere Girls,” by Amy Reed.
The complainant or media specialist can appeal the district committee's appeal within 30 days to Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt. The superintendent's decision can be appealed within 10 days to the School Board.
The school review committees have been meeting since Oct. 25 and more review meetings are scheduled through May 25.
Since the challenges three books — “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “L8R G8R” and “The Haters” — have been removed. Other books have been weeded out. Seven are currently under review.