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House Bill 989 will give parents ability to challenge school books

WPEC

Trying to find a balance of a parent's right to keep books age appropriate versus allowing kids to experience literature is at the center of a house bill in Tallahassee.

Any book a parent finds inappropriate, this bill allows the parent a channel to file their complaint.

“We don't want them having access to things that we don't feel are appropriate for their age,” said Lauren Fielder.

Fielder and her son were heading into Barnes & Noble. Inside the store, Lauren can see everything that he picks out. But in the school library, she's not there to supervise, and she thinks the new state bill puts the power where it belongs--in a parents hands.

“We don't want them having access to things that we don't feel are appropriate for their age,” Fielder said.

House Bill 989 deals with textbooks and books in school libraries. As it stands, if a parent doesn't approve of a certain book, the only way to challenge the book is to go before the school board.

But if the bill becomes law, a position would be created in school districts-- a kind of literary officer- that person would hear the parent’s concerns and make a determination about if the book can stay.

“This is part of that dumbing down of America,” said Dr. Kathryn Gundlach, head of Palm Beach County's teachers association. She strongly opposes the bill.

Gundlach used to teach fourth grade. She was then a school psychologist before becoming a union leader.

Every few years, books like "Catcher In The Rye" or Mark Twain’s novels that have the racial slurs are questioned and sometimes taken out of schools.

Gundlach says it's getting worse. She calls it censorship, and now, she says elected leaders are supporting it.

“There are some of our classics that would probably be considered inappropriate, but our schools should have academic freedom and the ability to talk about books and to discuss them,” Gundlach said.

The House Bill passed late Thursday with a 94 vote in favor and 25 opposed.

It heads to the Senate side next. There is also a similar bill on the Senate side.


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