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Parents, grandparents speak out against books removed from Martin County school libraries

NewsParents, grandparents speak out against books removed from Martin County school libraries

MARTIN COUNTY — Parents want the books back in the school libraries.

About 200 people, many of them parents and grandparents, crowded the School Board meeting Tuesday to demand returning more than 80 titles to the libraries’ shelves. The books were removed last month from district school media centers after parent Julie Marshall filed challenges, complaining the books were inappropriate for children because they contained sexual content or racist themes.

Several of the more than 40 speakers requested a committee be created to read the books and reconsider their removal.

Marshall said Tuesday she worked with other parent groups to compile the list of books to challenge. It wasn’t just her alone, she said.

“Persecute me for standing on morality, I really don’t care,” she said.

Parents complained that Marshall didn’t speak for them, and that one person or group should not decide what books are available to their children.

“Judy Blume helped me through adolescence. Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” helped me understand that I have privileges that my Black peers do not enjoy. Jodi Picoult continues to educate me on social issues that I do not fully comprehend,” said Karen Janson. “In order to be a united community, we must understand one another.”

Fear of knowledge is the reason behind the banning or burning of books, said Grace Linn, 100, who noted her husband was killed during World War II defending freedom.

“Fear is not freedom. Fear is not liberty. Fear is control,” she said. “My husband died as a father of freedom. I am a mother of liberty. Banned books need to be proudly displayed and protected from School Board choices.”

The freedom to read, Linn said, is an essential right and duty of our democracy. “Even though it is continually under attack,” she said.

Those who supported returning books to the libraries wore yellow stickers, which former School Board member Victoria Defenthaler said symbolized yellow school buses.

Parents who supported the book removal said many of the books contained sexual content and language unsuitable for children.

“I do not want pornography around my grandchildren, or any children,” said Elizabeth Crane, who said she was in the fourth grade when they removed prayer from schools — “and today kids have to read about rape.”

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Stuart resident Julie Marshall speaks about the 80 titles that were removed last month from district school media centers during the Martin County School Board meeting, Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at 1939 SE Federal Highway in Stuart. "The book requests that I filed are part of a group effort. I work with a local group, but we also work with other groups statewide and nationally," said Marshall. "We work with teachers, therapists, church leaders, parents, grandparents, community members, everyone. We've also consulted with African Americans, those of the Jewish faith and many others when the need has arisen ... If you guys want to continue making me out to be the sole parent in all of this and give me the power that I can have all these books removed and make me out to be ya know, Wonder Woman, so be it. But ya know, persecute me for standing on morality, I really don't care." Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison and best-selling young-adult novelist Jodi Picoult are some of the writers whose works were removed from the Martin County School District's middle and high schools last month.

The removal of books garnered national attention when authors whose books were removed took to social media to protest.

Best-selling novelist Jodi Picoult, who noted 20 of her books were removed from library shelves, was interviewed by CNN and other national media about the book removal. Picoult’s books were challenged for being adult romance novels, but Picoult said in interviews some of the books do not contain even a kiss.

“The real fear for these parents is that their kids’ minds may be opened by a book,” Picoult said on Twitter.

Author James Patterson also took to social media when his “Maximum Ride” book series was removed from elementary school libraries.

After almost two hours of speakers, the board had little to say.

Board member Amy Pritchett said those opposing the book removal were heard, but no action was taken to return the books or reconsider their removal.

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"In response to the book banning throughout our country and Martin County, I have created this quilt to remind all of us that these few of so many more books that are banned or targeted, need to be proudly displayed and protected," said Grace Linn, 100, of Jensen Beach, while addressing the Martin County School Board during public comment, Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at 1939 SE Federal Highway in Stuart. Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison and best-selling young-adult novelist Jodi Picoult are some of the writers whose works were removed from the Martin County School District's middle and high schools last month.

Residents concerned about the 80 books that were removed last month from district school media centers attend the Martin County School Board meeting, Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at 1939 SE Federal Highway in Stuart. Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison and best-selling young-adult novelist Jodi Picoult are some of the writers whose works were removed from the Martin County School District's middle and high schools.

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