Citizens for Truth and Justice in Education and the National Coalition Against Censorship Kids Right to Read Network held a silent read-in outside of the Volusia County School Board building in DeLand on Tuesday, Jan. 23, to protest the removal of books from school libraries.
Ormond Beach resident Laurel Robinson, spokesperson for CTJE, said it's important that the issue not be forgotten.
"It's just too important," she said. "When you start assaulting the whole body of work that got us to where we are, and particularly in an education setting, I think it's very dangerous."
Robinson founded CTJE along with Sheila Zinkerman and Jane Bresling, both of Ormond Beach. Even if one is not a parent or a teacher, it's important to make your voice heard on the matter, Robinson said. She fears the banning of books could lead to further restrictions on how the public education system works.
"If we're not watching, nobody's watching," she said.
Also in attendance at the read-in — which featured the giveaway of some books removed from school districts around the state — was Christina Quinn, president of Central Floridians for Social Equality.
She said it was important for her organization to be present because diversity representation in books matter.
"The books are currently being submitted for being removed from our schools, if you look at them, most of them are LGBTQ+ or of the Black community," Quinn said.
Several weeks ago, Quinn said CFSE challenged the Bible in Volusia County Schools — not because the organization feels it should be removed, but to make the point that no books should be removed as the Bible has sexually explicit content.
"It just tells me right there it's OK if it's a Christian book, but if it's any of the marginalized community, it becomes an issue," Quinn said.
Standing up for books is a battle Quinn said is worth fighting.
"I think it's a battle that eventually we will win," she said. "However, this isn't the war. The war is a lot greater than just books."
Speaking to the school board at its meeting, Robinson said CTJE's demonstration is a quiet one.
"The point of using silent reading is two-fold: One, to draw a sharp contrast between the shock and appall that board members registered when they were recited out-of-context salacious words and phrases, with those of us who seek to remind the board that a valuable book, a book with a purpose, is a complete entity worth far more than the sum of its parts," she said. "Two, to draw attention to the palpable power of silence itself."
Moms for Liberty Volusia Chapter Chair Jenifer Kelly also addressed the board at the meeting. She asked once again for the board to revise its policy on media selection of print and non-print materials.
In the 2022-2023 school year, 89 books were challenged in Volusia County Schools, according to the Florida Department of Education. Two books were removed.