Florida school district pulls queer books: “These characters and themes cannot exist”

How bad are things getting in Florida? News has emerged of a school district that instructed its librarians to pull all books featuring any LGBTQ+ characters, even if those characters played secondary roles in the stories.

Associated Press reports on a meeting held on July 24th between librarians and Charlotte County Schools Superintendent Mark Vianello and the school board’s attorney, Michael McKinley.

A memo detailing comments made at the meeting was subsequently sent out. The Florida Freedom to Read Project (FFTRP) obtained the document via a public records request. That organization passed it on to AP.

The librarians asked the men about Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill (officially called the Parental Rights In Education bill).

“Are we removing books from any school or media center, Prek-12 if a character has, for example, two mothers or because there is a gay best friend or a main character is gay?”

“Yes,” replied Vianello and McKinley.

When pushed to clarify, they said, “Books with LBGTQ+ characters are not to be included in classroom libraries or school library media centers.”

They went on to say the ban extended to the books children brought to school. Nothing could contain gay characters, even if the books were not sexual or pornographic in any way.

“These characters and themes cannot exist,” they responded, according to the memo.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ adopted across all Florida school districts

Popular Information first reported on the memo on Tuesday. A spokesperson for Charlotte County “did not dispute the accuracy of the document but emphasized it was a summary, not a verbatim transcript.”

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law was passed for younger students in 2022. Earlier this year, it was extended across all school years. All 67 school districts have fallen into line, but the Charlotte County interpretation appears the most extreme.

FFTRP told AP the district’s stance provided: “evidence that fear over thoughtful decision making is winning the day.”

After Project Information ran its story, a spokesperson for the Charlotte County School District sent a further statement about the memo. They suggested the district had softened its stance.

“Books featuring LGBTQ characters are accessible in the media center for grades 9-12. While they may not be utilized for classroom instruction, these books are available for individual study and can be borrowed by students. The document… served as a training resource, and the discussion accompanying it provided further guidance to educators.”

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