Florida Tea Party Group Demands District Ban 14 Books

Beloved Toni MorrisonIt’s Your Tea Party Florida has demanded that Marion County School District remove 14 books from their middle and high school libraries the group believe are “obscene, even pornographic.” Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier removed the books from the middle school libraries, saying they were not age appropriate. However, she chose to keep the titles on the shelves in the high schools, telling the media that she believes in choice and doesn’t agree with banning books. Local news says “The It’s Your Tea Party Florida group balked at her decision” apparently finding the removal of important work of literature from middle school inadequate to satisfy their request. Superintendent Maier is committed to following district policies in the high schools for the challenges, though based on the local news report, she is not optimistic in retaining these titles. According to the Ocela Star Banner Maier spoke to the School Board about the challenge,

Maier said all books in the high school libraries must have “educational” value.

Maier referenced the book “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison. She said the book has been used by at least one teacher as required reading.

Though Maier said the book is excellent for “adults,” it does not contain actual history of the attack. And, she said, the book also has some sexual content, including acts of bestiality and discussions about sex with girls.

Maier found it difficult to defend the book’s educational value at the middle school level, as well as in “some” high school settings.

Toni Morrison’s Beloved is just one of the 14 titles that the political group is insisting be removed. Out of 14, only 10 of the titles are actually in Marion County high school libraries. The local news article only listed those books challenged available in the school district, which include:

  • Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (available at Forest and Lake Weir high schools)
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (available at all Marion high schools)
  • The Women of Brewster’s Place by Gloria Naylor (available at North Marion High)
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (available at all Marion high schools)
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison: (available at all Marion high schools)
  • The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu(available at all Marion high schools)
  • Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia (available at Dunnellon High School and West Port High School)
  • Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan (available at all Marion high schools except Dunnellon)
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin: (available at all Marion high schools)
  • Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess(available at Dunnellon, North Marion, Vanguard and West Port high schools)

It’s Your Tea Party Florida chairman, Ed Wilson, confirmed with the local news that their political group has met with the superintendent twice this year already. Wilson told the paper that he’s happy the books have been removed from the middle schools and that he hopes the same will be true for the high schools since the books don’t belong in schools. In a very unsurprising turn, Wilson is also a committee member of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance.

By Wilson and his group originating these complaints with the Superintendent, It’s Your Tea Party Florida bypassed the initial challenge protocol for individual schools and prompted a district challenge. According to Marion County School Board policies, this is the challenge protocol which Superintendent Maier will assure is carried out.

      IV. These procedures shall be appropriate for district-level appeals and shall be
      followed when the complainant disagrees with the decision rendered from the
      school-level appeal. A committee shall be appointed by the Superintendent to
      review the appeal. The Superintendent shall designate the instructional materials
      coordinator as being responsible for the organization of this review committee
      according to School Board policies. The committee’s recommendations shall be
      submitted to the Superintendent within fifteen (15) working days. A committee
      member shall not be selected from the school where the challenged materials

{Omitted the protocol for elementary school challenge committee selection}

        B. The following shall serve as a review committee for secondary schools:

1. A chairperson of a School Advisory Council or designee;

2. Secondary media specialist;

3. Secondary principal;

4. A curriculum supervisor;

5. Three (3) instructional staff members at the secondary level; and

6. Two (2) parents of secondary-age students.

C. The committee’s review shall be treated objectively, unemotionally, and in
a businesslike manner and shall be conducted in the best interest of the
students, the school, and the community. Efforts shall be made to meet
with citizens who register concerns to consider their objections.

D. The complainant shall be informed, in writing, in fifteen (15) working days
after the committee’s recommendation is received by the Superintendent.
V. A School Board appeal may be requested by the complainant when the school
and district-level appeals do not satisfactorily resolve the concerns. The School
Board shall review recommendations from the school and district-level
committees and shall render the final decision on the complainant’s concern.

The local paper also shared an anecdote the Superintendent shared with them about how she fell victim to book censorship in fifth grade. Maier says she often brought her own books to school to read in her free time, and one day she brought Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family with her. Her teacher took the book from her, citing it inappropriate for her age. When Maier’s mother heard about this later that day after school, she went and confronted the teacher, explaining that as the mother, those decisions were hers to make. She got her daughter’s book returned to her.

What’s interesting about this anecdote, is that if her mom only went by recommended age of books or pedagogical worth in a fifth-grade curriculum, she might not have bothered to get that classic American story back for her daughter. Roots is primarily taught in high school. Maier’s mother trusted her daughter’s own judgment and must have understood the merit in her avid reading habits. For Maier to say now, 40 year’s later that she can’t defend the pedagogical merit of Beloved by Toni Morrison for middle school or even some high school, goes against what her own mother fought for so many years ago. The merit cannot be seen by those staring at the book’s cover or the Florida core requirements, it can only be seen by those reading the text. And as someone who was obviously touched by her mother’s fierce commitment to her own intellectual freedom, she must now stand and defend those students who depend on her to protect theirs.