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Books on racism and sexual assault are back on Flagler school shelves; LGBTQ memoirs left out

Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt has returned three controversial books back to library shelves, while a fourth book awaits further review.

"The Hate U Give" and "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and "You," books about racism and activism, and "Speak," a young-adult novel centered around a sexual assault, were cleared to return to schools after a review by the Flagler District Media Review Committee.

"All Boys Aren't Blue," a series of personal essays about queer, Black identity, was left out pending a new process under development by the school district for approving sensitive media for students to access.

All four books were flagged by District 1 School Board Member Jill Woolbright, who also filed a criminal complaint with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office last month alleging that the presence of five copies of "All Boys Aren't Blue" in school libraries was a crime due to sexual material in the book, which she likened to pornography.

In "All Boys Aren't Blue," author George M. Johnson chronicles his experience growing up as a Black gay person. The book became a bestseller when it released last year and was named one of the best titles of 2020 by Amazon's Books Editors, CNN reported.

The Sheriff's Office determined the presence of the book — and the ability of minors to access it — did not constitute a crime. But the issue led to an emotional debate about censorship, protests at School Board meetings and unwelcome headlines across the country.

Woolbright did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

In a news release Tuesday morning, Mittelstadt said Woolbright has the option to challenge her decision, which would bring the matter before the five-member school board.

Mittelstadt said he district is developing a new material review process for sensitive subjects that will include parents.

"I believe in a procedure to give our parents the opportunity to participate in that process," she said. "I think it's critically important until we have the procedure in place, that particular book should be pulled from the availability of our students to access it."

Copyright 2021 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Raymon Troncoso