City of Thieves by David Benioff was banned from a Lee County High School in Fort Myers, Florida after a parent complained of the book being “vulgar”. The book had been randomly assigned to approximately 30 students, and the parents and students had a chance to review the work and express any concerns, but at the that time no concerns were brought forward, though according to a local news report, some students did ask to exchange City of Thieves for another book.
The students assigned the New York Times bestseller by Benioff who did not opt-out of the text were still forced to stop reading it after a parent complained about the language in the book. The parent, Dawn Willet, spoke to local news ABC 7 about the book. In an email to the news station Willet said she was “astounded the school district advocated and actually mandated sexually degrading material.”
The news station said they were able to get a hold of a copy of the book and that the language was so “questionable” they didn’t feel they could share it on television, however they did pull quotes out of context from City of Thieves, and flash them across the screen with the inappropriate words redacted.
“May god **** those ********* in the ***.”
“Get in the car you little ****.”
“Suck my **** and make a wish.”
Willet told reporters,
“I trusted them (the Lee County School District) and in no way did they have the right to take away my ability to morally train my child. The damage has been done.”
Rob Spicker, with Lee County School District told ABC 7, “It was immediately reviewed. It was deemed inappropriate and the students that were reading it were told to stop reading it.”
But it is unclear as to whether LCSD followed it’s own policies for “Objection to Instructional Materials Presently in Use” as set forth in The School Board of Lee County Policy 2.18.
“Any interested party, citizen of Lee County and parents or guardians of students currently enrolled in the Lee County School District may submit a complaint or objection to the use of instructional materials in any classroom in the School District. If requested, the school must provide access to the material or book. The complainant shall submit a letter to the school principal outlining objections to the material in question. Within 10 school days the principal and/or designee shall meet with the complainant for the purpose of hearing the complainant’s concerns and attempting to resolve the issue without removing the material in question from the classroom. If the complainant is not satisfied with the results of this meeting, a formal complaint may be filed with the Superintendent following the steps listed below:”
To read the rest of the necessary steps a book challenge must follow in Lee County, check out Policy 2.18.
The importance of creating and following school policies for objections to materials is creating a balance between parents, students, and community members feeling heard in their concerns, without infringing on the first amendment rights of the students of the district. While a parent can help their child decide on what books are appropriate for them, one parent can not make that decision for every student in the district.