Florida school board member files police report over library book as right’s censorship efforts expand

Extremist officials in multiple localities across the country are racing to ban content from LGBT and racial minority authors in school libraries
Photo illustration: Carolyn Langton/Flickr

First published at Daily Kos

Eager as ever to jump backward in time, conservatives have used their time amid a global pandemic to push anti-queer legislation and try to ban books. As Daily Kos has covered, we’ve seen librarians face potential obscenity charges over stocking books with LGBTQ+ and sexual education themes. We’ve heard Texas school administrators suggest teachers need to include an “opposing” view of the Holocaust when they stock their classroom libraries. School board members in Virginia are suggesting it’s time to literally burn books. And of course, the enormous hysteria over critical race theory (CRT) has taken over a number of school boards.

As reported by the Palm Coast Observer, Jill Woolbright, a member of the school board in Flagler County, Florida, and a retired classroom teacher, filed a criminal report over an LGBTQ+ book available in three school libraries in the district. Woolbright argues that the book (All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson) violates state laws against obscenity because of sexually explicit material. The book is an essay collection by Johnson, an openly nonbinary, queer Black journalist, that details their childhood, adolescence, and college years. 

Woolbright told the outlet she’s concerned about the “children” in the district, and she wants the book to be investigated as a “crime in our media center.” For now, all four copies of the book have been pulled from library shelves until the board makes a decision. According to Flagler Live, however, no parents have filed complaints about the book; in fact, in the history of the school board, no one has challenged or tried to ban a book. 

“This is pretty heavy stuff, violating our own policies,” she continued. “That’s why I felt the need to file the report, so I know it will be investigated.” The Observer reports that Woolbright gave the sheriff’s office a copy of the book and asked for it to be submitted as evidence.

Raw Story reports that Woolbright participated in a WNZF radio show in May and described her participation on the school board as her “calling.”

“Who I am is a child of God and it influences everything I say and do,” she explained, “because that’s what it means to be a child of God.” Woolbright went on to clarify that she is a Christian, and “people knew that going in,” and that her faith affects her decisions. (You can listen to the full interview via Facebook here.)

Interestingly, it’s unclear what constituents, specifically, Woolbright is advocating on behalf of; she references concerns for residents and high schoolers who might come across these books but is short on specific examples, names, or complaints from people. It’s also unclear if she, herself, has read the book.

All Boys Aren’t Blue, however, is both famous on its own merit, and because Republicans are absolutely furious it exists. As covered by my colleague Laura Clawson, for example, All Boys Aren’t Blue is one of the 29 titles recently pulled from library shelves in a Kansas school district. The title has been pulled from school libraries in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Arkansas, Virginia, Texas, and others already. As reported by Refinery 29, people have been flooding the book with negative reviews online as well.

In an interview with The Advocate, Johnson explains that while memoir is typically written for adults, they intentionally wrote this book, which they describe as both a memoir and a manifesto, with young adult readers in mind. 

“If a topic that you deem as heavy can happen to a child,” Johnson explained. “Then it is not too heavy to discuss with that child.” They went on to say that children have to exist in a world where, for example, racism exists, and refusing to educate kids about these subjects doesn’t help them.

“My one book is not what is going to harm your child,” Johnson added. “It is the fact that you are not allowing them to understand the world that they live in that is ultimately going to harm your child.”