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School District pulls 22 books from library shelves

Review committee responds to man who filed 45 objections in July

Posted 8/3/23

FLEMING ISLAND – Children still will be able to check out “Arthur’s Birthday” and “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stink-a-Lot” from their elementary school library.

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School District pulls 22 books from library shelves

Review committee responds to man who filed 45 objections in July


Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Children still will be able to check out “Arthur’s Birthday” and “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stink-a-Lot” from their elementary school library.

But older students who want to read Stephen King’s “Apt Pupil,” “Carrie,” “It” and “Every Heart a Doorway” will have to visit the public library or download it from the internet after the Clay County District Schools’ Oversight Committee determined they violated the guidelines set in Florida Statute 847.

The group determined 22 of the 45 requests submitted by Middleburg’s Bruce Friedman contained material that may be obscene.

The four-person committee reviewed Friedman’s complaints for several hours Tuesday at Fleming Island High. District Chief Academic Officer Roger Dailey led the committee, along with two school officials and one parent.

Their work was painstakingly tedious, especially since Friedman seemed content with challenging many literary works.

“We have a complainant who’s new to our area. He came in from New York and had a tremendous passion for this topic,” Dailey said. “Close to 96% of the complaints, in fact, all the complaints in the last 12 months have been from this individual.

“So all of this is produced from this individual. We are bound by Florida statute. A number of books have violations of Chapter 847 – obscenity and pornography – which would be very descriptive passages about sexual activity or stuff like that. Also, I’d say the lion’s share of these things are really topics that the complainant doesn’t like.”

Dailey said the county examines every objection and has a process that allows parents to be involved in what their children read.

“Clay County has always had both challenges available,” he said. “It’s not anything new. But recent events, I think nationally and statewide and brought it into greater focus.

“We said if parents wanted to opt out, if they didn’t trust the system, they could opt out. Six parents out of 42,000 students chose to do that. We’re asking secondary parents, just like they would for a headache, medicine or anything else, they can have a form to give their child permission to check it out. It’s in the hands of the parent.”

Friedman didn’t appear at Tuesday’s meeting. But he gained national attention at the July 2022 school board meeting when he tried to read pornographic passages from some of the books into the record. After being told he couldn’t describe pornography because the meeting was live-streamed, the board turned off his microphone.

“Somebody failed drastically in their mission to protect children,” Friedman told Fox News. “As soon as I announced that I was going to read some books that parents – myself and others – found in the public school libraries that are clearly pornographic, they had the mic cut off.”

All 45 challenges for July listed the same primary reason: “PROTECT CHILDREN!” Question No. 4 of the Request for Reconsideration or Review of Instructional Materials asks what would result from a student using that particular piece of material. In every instance, he wrote, “DAMAGED SOULS.”

All of his objections also listed specific concerns. “Arthur’s Birthday,” a popular children’s book about a cartoon aardvark, was challenged because it mentioned a spin-the-bottle game. He wrote, “IT IS NOT APPROPRIATE TO DISCUSS “SPIN THE BOTTLE” WITH ELEMENTRY SCHOOL CHILDREN.”

The committee disagreed.

“We did that one first,” Dailey said. “We think their souls will be intact.”

Friedman did make 22 successful challenges. They were removed because they violated state law, not because Friedman had a personal dislike for them.

“He wants his personal lens to be everyone’s personal lens,” Dailey said.

Dropped from the district inventory were four of King’s novels, as well as books like, “How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater,” “Sophie’s Choice” and “The Lover’s Dictionary.”

But Friedman unsuccessfully challenged “Who Was Dr. Seuss,” “120 Banned Books” and “Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stink-a-Lot.”

Three books – “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” Counterfeit Son” and “American Street” were set aside for further review.