Hillsborough book challenge grabs attention of lawmaker

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Hillsborough County School Board held a special meeting on Tuesday and voted to ban a book from all public middle schools in the area.

The book, titled “This Book Is Gay”, explores a number of topics, including stereotypes and “coming out.” Advocates and the book’s author say it was written to help young people who are beginning to explore their sexuality.

Controversy over the book began last year when a parent filed a complaint because the book was available in the Pierce Middle School library. A committee at the school reviewed the book and decided it should stay. Their decision was appealed, and then a district committee reviewed the book, and also voted that it could remain on library shelves. That decision was appealed, leading to Tuesday’s special school board meeting.

More than 60 people showed up to the meeting to discuss both sides of the issue. Critics argued it wasn’t age-appropriate for middle school students.

“This book has to go. I’m a grandmother and I don’t want my grandchild reading this book,” one woman said.

“I never saw a book like this in the library when I was in school. I feel this is grooming children for things, that is just horrible,” said Terri Rock.

Others who spoke during the meeting fear that banning books sets a bad precedent.

“I may not agree with a content, but others might, and how is it my decision to choose what is to be read and what is not,” one student said.

“Very upsetting, and very scary. This, that’s a very scary precedent for our future of books,” said library media specialist Kathleen Daniels.

At the end of the meeting, the board voted 4-3, agreeing that the book was not age-appropriate and did not belong in middle schools.

“For us for to have a book is so sexually explicit in the hands of children, minors, that is what is upsetting and concerning to me,” said School Board Member Stacy Hahn, who represents District 2.

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