Parents, politicians and activists who are waiting for the Hillsborough County School Board to reexamine its practices for reviewing or removing potentially inappropriate library books will have to wait a little longer.
A school board workshop that had been listed on a public calendar for this Tuesday will not happen until June 27, as district leaders await the conclusion of this year’s legislative session.
The delay, coming more than a year after some board members asked for the workshop, has not stopped critics of the current policy from reading sexually graphic book passages aloud at televised board meetings in protest.
Nor has it stopped some organizations from presenting district leaders with lists of books they want taken out of circulation.
The conservative news platform, The Florida Standard, earlier this month quoted a member of a conservative citizen’s organization as saying that Superintendent Addison Davis has “quarantined” dozens of books as the district reviews their content.
District spokesperson Tanya Arja said this week that there is no quarantine, and no books have been taken off the shelves.
“District staff is reviewing a list of books to determine their age appropriateness and content,” Arja said in an email to the Florida Standard that she shared with the Tampa Bay Times.
But she said the current list consists of only four books, including “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Flamer” by Mike Curato, which Gov. Ron DeSantis flagged at a news conference in March.
It was not the much longer list provided by a group called Citizens Defending Freedom Hillsborough County.
A list of controversial books included in the Standard article includes popular works of fiction such as “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer and “Normal People” by Sally Rooney.
Hillsborough has not moved as quickly as many other school districts in responding to a nationwide movement to restrict student access to books that contain sexual content.
When the topic first surfaced in Hillsborough, school board chairperson Nadia Combs spoke out strongly against the book critics, saying children are in much more danger from materials and websites that they can access on their smartphones.
Combs has since moderated her position. “I want to make sure that everybody is being heard,” including parents, she said this week.
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Combs was in the minority on March 28 when she voted against removing “This Book Is Gay,” by Juno Dawson, from all of the district’s middle schools.
But Combs said she voted the way she did because she did not like the way the matter was handled. The board had been told it would vote on whether to remove the book from Pierce, the only middle school where it was in circulation. But Davis broadened the motion shortly before the meeting.
“I’ve always been a very moderate person,” Combs said. “I believe in democracy and I believe in processes.”