FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth Board of Education has recently banned nine books from county schools due to sexually explicit content, according to a district spokesperson.
The following books have been removed school libraries:
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
- L8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle
- Me Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
- Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
A total of 11 copies were removed from schools but not from elementary schools. Currently, the school district has 543,909 books in their media centers according to a spokesperson.
"The superintendent was notified by a local parent, and just said there were some books of concern," communications director Jennifer Caracciolo said. "So he turned it over to staff to look further into the situation. Local school boards do have the authority, based on local community standards, that they can remove things that are 'pervasively vulgar.' We do have a responsibility as a school system, within the walls of our school, to what we expose our students to as far as sexually explicit content.”
Any books that are challenged go through a local committee and a district-wide committee to determine if the content is appropriate for students. The committees, which vary from year to year according to Caracciolo, are comprised of teachers, parents and others.
"These are explicit, in detail sexual acts not discussed in health or PE class where you’re learning about sexual education," Caracciolo said. “We didn’t look at the topic of the book, the author, how the author identified. Instead, we just looked at content.”
Here is the Forsyth Board of Education's statement:
The courts have told public officials at all levels that they may take community standards into account when deciding whether materials are obscene or pornographic and thus subject to removal.
The Supreme Court ruled that public schools can bar books that are “pervasively vulgar” or not right for the curriculum, but they cannot remove books “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.”
Destiny (our media center cataloging software) is available for all parents/guardians to access. There are flags within the system to denote certain books. If you find a book that should be flagged but isn’t, please contact your media specialist.
Legal analyst Page Pate said it can be difficult to define what is "too sexually explicit," because there is little court precedent to guide the discussion. He referenced a 1982 Supreme Court case that left the door open for local school boards to ban books if they contained ample sexual content.
“It is absolutely unconstitutional to ban a book simply because the school board disagrees with its content," Pate said. "There just haven’t been a lot of cases that have made their way to the Supreme Court or higher court to set those standards. For parents that want to oppose this type of book banning, they need to get just as active as the parents who are trying to ban the books.”
When asked about the school district's decision to ban the books in question, Governor Brian Kemp did not side one way or the other, but he committed to having a dialogue over the topic in the General Assembly.
“I’m concerned as a parent about those type issues," Kemp said. "We’re going to be very thoughtful about this, talking to everybody involved. We’re talking to the parents, for sure. We’re also talking to teachers and superintendents and school board members and folks back home. This will be a good debate to have to move us forward as a state.”