Letter: School Board should not amend current policy on book challenges

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  • By
  • | 5:00 p.m. May 1, 2023
  • Ormond Beach Observer
  • Opinion
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A word to the wise

Dear Editor:

All of us want what's best for all students. But two policy changes which the Volusia County School Board has proposed in the book reconsideration process will adversely affect them. 

The first issue is the proposed language stating “upon review, a principal may direct the removal of material he/she deems in violation of the Florida law.” Think about the perceptions of students when their favorite, diverse books are confiscated by their principal. 

Principals (historically) supported thought-provoking reading material in our schools. They didn’t remove it. A principal once gave me a book and a message: He said “A word to the wise is sufficient. Read it;” and handed me the book.

The majority of challenged books have authors and characters who are LGBTQIA+ and Black. When principals censor books, it also removes diversity and representation in schools. 

One principal’s opinion shouldn't dictate removal of books. The question of whether a book has value cannot be determined by a single individual. Decisions should be made by a group of district professional educators who are experts on which books are of value to students.

The second issue is the proposed structure of the Reconsideration Committee. The current policy works, so don't change it to a 4-3 citizen majority. 

Parents have the right to know experts such as media specialists, librarians, and teachers who specialize in book selection, are reviewing books. They should be the majority. It is highly unlikely that the district’s professional educators select books that meet the criteria of obscenity and are harmful to minors.

The National Coalition Against Censorship’s recent letter to the School Board states, “we urge you to amend the proposed policy.” Specifically, we recommend the inclusion of a provision mandating that experts, including district legal counsel, librarians, media specialists, and teachers with expertise in book selection, be consulted before any material is deemed in violation of Florida law and ultimately removed from circulation. 

A word to the wise is sufficient.

Sheila Zinkerman

Ormond Beach


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