By Scott Johnson with News4JAX
CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A video clip of a Clay County father speaking at a school board meeting has gone viral and put the topic of what’s in the county’s school libraries in the national spotlight.
Some parents claim there are books containing material that is inappropriate for children in libraries but some school board members said the allegations are being blown out of proportion and they are always willing to investigate any concerns.
The issue started during a Clay County School Board meeting on June 30 when Middleburg father Bruce Friedman, who represents the group “No Left Turn in Education,” tried to read excerpts from a book he said was on the shelf at the Fleming Island High School library.
In the video, the school board attorney can be heard shutting down Friedman because he was concerned pornographic or lewd content could be broadcast live on the school district’s YouTube channel. News4JAX spoke with a first amendment attorney who said that’s less of an issue than if it was broadcast over the air on television where there are more regulations.
Father Bruce Friedman has now been interviewed by national media outlets over the incident, including Fox News. He read News4JAX some excerpts from one book called “Lucky” by Alice Sebold. The book involves a woman’s graphic retelling of a sexual assault when she was 18 years old.
“They are trying to sexualize and normalize deviant behavior,” Friedman told News4JAX. “Sexualizing our children is grooming. It is not acceptable. It is illegal. Lawyer wasn’t concerned about that. He was concerned if I read some bad words.”
A conservative group called “Moms for Liberty” has spearheaded these efforts in Northeast Flordia and across the country targeting specific books. The group said it has identified 26 books in Clay County school libraries that it deems inappropriate for students. Only one or two have been removed so far, including an illustrated book called “Gender Queer,” a book that touches on subjects like gender identity and contains sexual depictions drawn inside.
School board member Janice Kerekes said the issue is being overblown and Clay County schools has a system in place to report inappropriate material in the library. She believes it’s a case of “misinformation.”
“We have a process in place that when something is brought to our attention if it’s a book in the media center it will immediately be removed and reviewed,” Kerekes said. “And on the review committee, there is six different people on the committee. We just set a policy last meeting to address that.”
Parents who believe this is a major issue, however, are organizing and going through books right now. Moms For Liberty told News4JAX it made a summer reading program for parents to go through books in the school libraries and determine what they feel has content not appropriate for children.
The school district said it adopted a policy at the June 30 meeting where parents can report material that they deem as obscene in a school library. Moms For Liberty said it feels the process the district has instituted is too cumbersome.