School district says it is removing inappropriate books from elementary school libraries, but many still show up in the database
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – After Libs of TikTok posted on Twitter that the book “This Book is Gay” was available at Westwood Middle School, we decided to search elementary school libraries for books that may be considered inappropriate by some parents or that might violate Florida law prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) replied to the tweet, saying “This book is not available in any Alachua County Public Schools media center. The one copy that was available has been out of circulation since at least 2019. Although it was marked as ‘Out,’ it has now been removed from our listings entirely to avoid confusion.”
At the February 21 School Board meeting, Interim Superintendent Shane Andrew said he wanted to address “misinformation” on social media regarding books in school libraries. He said, “Unfortunately, most visitors [to the online book catalogs] are, understandably, not familiar with the database; that’s led to confusion about what is and isn’t available to students. For example, people looking at the database won’t know that a book they see listed has been out of circulation for at least five years and has been removed from the collection or that it is only available to teachers, not students, and is stored in a separate area not accessible to students. It’s our responsibility to ensure that parents and other visitors to our website have an accurate understanding of what is actually available to students.”
Andrew said the Media Services Department is currently working with Media Specialists across the district to revise the database so it reflects only the books available to students at each school and that they expect the process to be completed by Spring Break. He said any resident can submit a request for re-evaluation of instructional materials at this website. From that page, a parent can also submit a request that their child not be allowed to check out certain books or categories of books.
Jennifer Owens, who attended the Feb. 21 meeting, gave us her response to Andrew’s statement: “Parents should be checking whether these books are available to their children, whether in the library or in the classroom. If these books aren’t available to children, why are so many of them listed in the school library databases? And why would they be checked out by teachers? They’re not written for teachers.”
Books found at ACPS elementary schools
The number of inappropriate books (see our list below) found in the online database varied by school, with Archer, Hidden Oak, and Lake Forest having none and Terwilliger having 18; Terwilliger listed 12 books that weren’t available at any other school, most published in the last few years.
The book owned by the most schools (13) is “and tango makes three” by Justin Richardson. This is by far the oldest book on the list; most were written since 2018, but “tango” was written in 2003 and is a fictionalized version of a true story about a pair of male penguins in a zoo that hatch an egg. The book describes how male penguins usually pair up with girl penguins in the zoo, but in one case, two male penguins paired up and seemed sad, so the zookeeper put an egg in their nest and it hatched, creating a different type of family. The book is written for young children and does not discuss anything sexual.
The next most popular book, found in six school catalogs, is “Melissa” (formerly titled “George”) by Alex Gino. The book description says, “When people look at Melissa, they think they see a boy named George. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.” According to Goodreads, the author is “genderqueer and uses singular they pronouns and the honorific Mx.” Gino’s book “Rick” is listed as checked-out at Terwilliger; the description of “Rick” is, “Eleven-year-old Rick Ramsey has generally gone along with everybody, just not making waves, even though he is increasingly uncomfortable with his father’s jokes about girls, and his best friend’s explicit talk about sex; but now in middle school he discovers the Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities can express themselves–and maybe among them he can find new friends and discover his own identity, which may just be to opt out of sex altogether.” Gino’s books are written for the middle grades, meaning children between the ages of 8 and 12.
“Julian is a mermaid,” by Jessica Love, is in five elementary schools. In this book, Julian wants to dress up as a mermaid; when his grandmother catches him dressed up, he is briefly worried that she will disapprove, but instead she takes him to a mermaid parade that several reviewers compare to a drag parade. One reviewer writes, “It is Black and Latinx and New York and Queer and intergenerational and wonderful.”
“Too bright to see,” by Kyle Lukoff, a transgender author, is in four elementary libraries. The description says the book is “A haunting ghost story about navigating grief, growing up, and growing into a new gender identity… A ghost is haunting Bug’s eerie old house in rural Vermont… and maybe haunting Bug in particular. As Bug begins to untangle the mystery of who this ghost is and what they’re trying to say, an altogether different truth comes to light–Bug is transgender.” The book is written for the middle grades.
Other books by Lukoff in ACPS elementary school libraries are “Call Me Max,” described as “a sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender,” and “When Aidan became a brother,” described as “When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore.”
Terwilliger’s 18 books include “My Maddy” by Gayle Pitman, an author whose writing “focuses on issues of gender and sexual orientation.” The description of the book reads, “A child celebrates her Maddy, who is neither mommy nor daddy but a little bit of both, like so many things in nature.”
Idylwild has a book that is intended for grades 7-9, “Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi, with a transgender main character. The book describes a society in which “monsters” no longer exist and the “angels who took apart the prisons and the police” have emerged from the “revolution.”
The book list
These are the books we found and the elementary schools where we found them. Unless they are notated as “checked out,” they were shown as “In” in the library database. Regarding Superintendent Andrew’s assertion that some may have been out of circulation for over five years, we note that almost all of these books were written in the past five years. We may have missed some, and we are obviously not an authority on appropriate books for children, but parents who are concerned about gender identity messaging in children’s books can consult the list below and check with the schools their children attend.
- The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean: Terwilliger
- Lilla the Accidental Witch by Eleanore Crewes: Terwilliger
- Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: Idylwild
- Except when they don’t by Laura Gehl: Littlewood (checked out), Wiles (checked out)
- Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart: High Springs (checked out)
- Stage dreams by Melanie Gillman: Alachua (checked out)
- Melissa/George by Alex Gino: Alachua, Glen Springs, Rawlings, Terwilliger, Wiles
- Rick by Alex Gino: Terwilliger
- They, she, he, easy as ABC by Maya Christina Gonzalez: Chiles
- The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey: Glen Springs
- I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel: Chiles, Irby
- Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman: Terwilliger
- My Sister, Daisy by Adria Karlsson: Glen Springs, Irby, Rawlings
- Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love: Terwilliger
- Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love: Chiles, Glen Springs, Irby, Littlewood, Terwilliger
- Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff: Glen Springs
- Too bright to see by Kyle Lukoff: Parker (checked out), Terwilliger (checked out), Wiles
- When Aidan became a brother by Kyle Lukoff: Irby, Terwilliger
- My Rainbow by DeShanna Neal: Terwilliger
- Birdie and me by J.M.M. Nuanez: Terwilliger
- My Maddy by Gayle Pitman:Terwilliger
- Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky: Wiles
- And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson: High Springs, Irby, Littlewood, Meadowbrook, Metcalfe, Newberry, Norton (checked out), Parker, Rawlings, Shell, Talbot (checked out), Terwilliger, Williams
- The Moon Within by Aida Salazar: Glen Springs, Terwilliger
- The Greatest Superpower by Alex Sanchez: Glen Springs
- Ana on the edge by A.J. Sass: Terwilliger
- Ellen outside the lines by A.J. Sass: Wiles (checked out)
- Jack (not Jackie) by Erica Silverman: Terwilliger
- The Deep and Dark Blue by Niki Smith: Terwilliger
- It feels good to be yourself by Theresa Thorn: Terwilliger
Updates from original publication: Littlewood has removed “George” and “Too bright to see” from their online database.
I have a conservative idea: instead of outsourcing your children’s education to a marxist public school system, that requires people with no children to pay taxes so as to educate yours at no cost to you, buck up and send them to a private school of your choice that has a library to your liking. Conservatives complaining about government services, where better private options are readily available, is always worth a chuckle. If you can’t afford to educate your children privately, don’t have any.
You do realize there are not enough private schools around to take all of the kids? How about the school’s do what we pay taxes for?
There is also another option, it’s homeschooling. It’s normally attached to a schoolboard and the kids can still participate in the activities associated with a government school and other groups. The children can still interact with other children and make friends. I am aware because my grandchildren were homeschooled and went on to college. All have turned out well ,
Our children are our future, the current younger generation will be the leaders of our great Nation one day. I want my leaders to be well educated, with knowledge of things that are important and relevant. Of which personal pronouns and sexual dysmorphia isn’t that. With more than 50% of my $6,200+ annual property tax bill going to the school system, I should have a say in what is being taught in public schools, even if my own children don’t attend public school. I would hope that we should all want all children to receive a solid and practical education that focuses on what will be needed for our children to be a success in life. That is not what is happening with the current curriculum. Repairing a broken education system is a lot easier than creating an entirely new one.
Mrs. Pink: I couldn’t have said it better. I pay $11,600/year to the public school system and have no children. The parents should have to pay their fair share… parents should pay half for each child they have in the system and the taxpayers
The other half is more equitable…
Who paid for your child’s education
My wife and I paid for our child’s education simply to avoid issues like this. $10,000 a year and worth every penny.
And before anyone says we much be rich…that is on a middle class income. It’s why you eat rice and beans and drive 22 year old trucks.
Some private schools have more drugs than public schools. And boarding schools have always been rightly known for being kinda gay. It depends on the school.
My son and his wife paid for the books that my grandchildren learned from and were tested every year to make sure they still qualified to be home schooled. If they don’t score high enough they are given another chance, if they don’t show improvements then they can no longer be homeschooled. One grandchild went on to college (paid her own way with a job, student loans and scholarships. She is a mechanical engineer, happy and very well adjusted. So you have other options.
Don’t breed em if you can’t educate & feed em…it’s called personal responsibility. Rubbers are cheap.
The welfare system exacerbates the problem.
Happy to no longer be taxed on my property to pay for public schools and the leftist ideology!
Thank you, Alachua Chronicle, for being diligent in this situation. You would expect the District and Library staff to stay on top of this. Apparently, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Interesting question why are Teachers checking out these banned books?
One can only assume this inappropriate material is being read to them and discussed in the classroom.
When are the failed ,sick ,predjudice, overpaid school board members going removed as well?
Lets start with that, Double the Charter Schools, if you don’t have children in school you are exempt from school taxes , and get rid of the Department of Education. That money would come to each State to spend wisely.
I don’t know what County you are in but in Clay County we voted 2 schoolboard members out and voted for 2 others who wanted the inappropriate material removed. That’s when the movement to rid our school libraries of inappropriate material (the books to be removed were shown on line to parents and the public) started happening. You should look into a group called “Mother’s for Liberty”.
All this pushing homosexual and transgender issues on our children…I’m telling you this is truly, truly an abomination. If you want to live that lifestyle and go to Hell that’s on you, but we are not going to allow you to drag our children down that same wicked path!
I was taught early in my life that homosexual behavior was a crime against nature. That no other species in nature has sex with the same gender. That our digestive tract is not designed to be used for sex.
I am not talking about the love that two same sex humans can have for one another.
It’s the deviant glorification of low morals to flash the sexuality part in the name of love and acceptance.
Dem daycare centers are using their monopoly adult powers to make children mentally ill, stupid and future Dem caseloads/voters. Period.
What’s the problem? I can say it in Two words: Cultural Marxism.
It’s also the moral decay of society…trying to normalize abhorrent behavior….what happened at Soddom & Gomorrah?
Diversity, equity, & inclusion…they’re trying to make pedophilia a normal acceptable behavior and a protected class.
It’s usually entertaining when a leader – superintendent, here – begins a response with ‘addressing misinformation.’
First, the misinformation evolved from a lack of information from the district. Rather than blaming those [parents] who naturally fill in the blanks, a real leader would take responsibility for the confusion.
Second, a data base is a simple thing to change. Ask any 12-year-old with computer skills about the ‘hack.’ It’s not complicated.
Third, where is the accountability for placing the books in the schools in the first place? How much did that bad idea cost taxpayers?
Fourth, and more quizzical, what is being done with the removed books? Are they being returned to the publishers for credit? Are they Being stored for possible re-introduction to the same schools from which they were removed? Are they being destroyed? Where are they?
See what questions remain due to lack of information from alleged leaders?……
As concerned citizens, we should take a conservative approach to this issue, balancing the importance of free speech and individual choice with the need to protect our children from potentially inappropriate material. Ultimately, this is a question of the role of the state in promoting or suppressing particular viewpoints.
While it is understandable that parents may be concerned about their children’s exposure to certain themes, it is important to remember that we live in a diverse and complex world. The fact that a book deals with gender identity or LGBTQ+ issues does not necessarily mean it is inappropriate or harmful to children.
At the same time, it is crucial that parents and educators maintain control over what their children are exposed to. If a particular book is not appropriate for a particular child or family, they should have the ability to opt out of reading it. Schools should also take care to ensure that their online catalogs are accurate and up-to-date and that books that are no longer in circulation are not listed.
Ultimately, the debate over which books should be available in our schools is a question of competing values: the freedom to express oneself and the desire to protect our children from potentially harmful material. By taking a conservative approach and carefully weighing the pros and cons of each argument, we can arrive at a solution that balances these values in a way that is both responsible and respectful.
Speaking as somebody who usually had the highest grades in any class I took (with a few exceptions), I would suggest not distracting students with non-academic materials at school. I never had to hear about my teachers’ living arrangements or sexual proclivities, and that was perfectly fine. The question of bringing drag queens into schools should be used as a litmus test to decide which teachers to terminate immediately. Anyone who would want that can’t possibly be a serious teacher. And it’s the same for anyone who thinks gay indoctrination books should be part of an academic curriculum. They are unfit for the job.