JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It’s the day before students in Duval County go back to school and the school district is still reviewing more than 2 dozen books that may not make it into the classroom.
Some of these books focus on Black History and the LGBTQ+ community.
Action News Jax spoke with DCPS, and administrators want to make it clear that they do have curriculum inside the classroom for Black History and the LGBTQ+ community; but they need to evaluate each book making sure it’s age appropriate for each grade level.
There are also some books that have been evaluated or sent back to the company DCPS orders its books from, Project Learning, because they were books meant for independent reading. There are also almost 50 books that were sent back to Project Learning. DCPS says those were books that were never a part of the districts original order.
DCPS says that 27 books are pending a final review on whether they can be placed in your child’s classroom. Those books range from grade levels K through 5.
A local mother of 3 said off camera that our children need to know their history.
“If we do not learn about our history then it is doomed to repeat itself, so I think that things need to be broached in by not taking the opportunity to teach them about racial issues then we are losing so much groundwork,” says a local mom of three.
On the list of 27 books that are waiting for a final review after they go through state guidance, is a book for second graders. It’s called Stella Brings The Family. It’s about a little girl who tries to celebrate Mother’s Day while being raised by two Fathers.
There’s also books for Kindergarteners that talk about both Black History and The LGBTQ+ community. Those include My Two Dads and Me. A book about a little boy being raised by same-sex parents. Another book is Before she was Harriet, that’s about Harriet Tubman’s life before the world knew her as the woman who helped rescue a number of African Americans from slavery with a safe house known as The Underground Railroad.
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President of The Northside Coalition of Jacksonville Ben Frazier says we cannot shy away from Black History, ever.
“Teachers in my opinion should be allowed to teach the truth about racism, about slavery, lynching and racial discrimination,” says Ben Frazier.
Mr. Frazier says the bottom line is that no student should be taught what to think but more so, how to think.
The district says they do have a curriculum that focuses on African American history in their Social Studies and History courses as it is a part of the state’s standards. Below is a link provided to Action News Jax by DCPS showcasing how they focus on African American History.
DCPS, adding that the State of Florida recently recognized the school district as a quote “Exemplary School District” for teaching African American History. Following input from their students, DCPS says they published their own book focusing on local African American History.
As far as teachings about The LGBTQ+ community DCPS says they’re also included in the curriculum. It’s something they’ve been working on since cutting ties with the local LGBTQ+ agency for youth, Jasmyn.
Action News Jax reached out to multiple contacts inside Jasmyn and was directed to The Chair of the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, Dan Merkan who released the following statement:
“The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality is deeply disturbed by the actions of the Duval County School District to reject books from the Essential Voices Collection that have not even faced a public challenge. It appears that many of the books that have been rejected, or are still off the shelves pending approval, were not rejected based on content, but rather viewpoint. Books that included LGBTQ characters who heroically overcame obstacles, or that affirmed LGBTQ relationships or identities were either rejected or held back from outright approval while other books that affirmed non-LGBTQ (heterosexual) relationships or identities were approved. By the time Duval County School students reach high school over 20% identify as LGBTQ. Many of these students have been aware of their sexual orientation or gender identity well before reaching high school and benefit from having access to reading materials which reflect their lives and their self-worth. LGBTQ students already disproportionately experience harassment, bullying and discrimination at rates higher than their non-LGBTQ peers, and, as result, also have higher rates of depression and anxiety. LGBTQ students are more likely to read when they can relate to the characters in the books they are offered and reading LGBTQ stories and characters can help LGBTQ students feel more supported. Banning these affirmative stories likely violates student’s 1st Amendment rights and is detrimental to the goals of the district to encourage student reading and achievement; and promote better health outcomes. All of the rejected books should be reconsidered for approval. Book banning is against core American principles.”