In a special meeting on July 24th, the Leon County School Board voted 5-0 to keep the “I am Billie Jean King” book in three elementary school media centers.
The vote came after a hearing process which was prompted by a complaint about passage in the book which referenced Billie Jean King’s gay life style, explained what it means to be gay, and notes her transition from being in love with a man to falling in love with a woman.
After evaluating comments by the concerned parent and an LCS official that supported retaining the book, the hearing officer determined that elementary school students should have access to the book. As part of the process, the hearing officer filed a recommended order for consideration by the school board which was taken up at the July 24th meeting.
The recommended order stated that the book had been well vetted prior to inclusion in Leon County Schools and that the book is not used for instruction.
The hearing officer also stated that removal would “infringes on the rights of parents who want their children to learn about Ms. King and the many contributions she has made to our country.”
And finally, the hearing officer noted that LCS was developing a process for a parent to limit his/her student’s access to materials in the school or classroom library.
At the meeting, Board member Rosanne Wood made a motion to adopt the recommendation which was followed by Board member comments.
School board member Laurie Cox voiced concerns related to the age appropriateness of the book, the reference to the meaning of gay, and the possibility that teachers could use the material in the classroom if the book was allowed to remain in the school’s media center.
Cox’s comments were followed by Rosanne Wood, who said she had spent two weeks formulating her thoughts. She stated that this is “such an excellent book” and “is about championing equality.”
“I want my kids to know everything about her. There is nothing that needs to be hidden in my opinion,” said Wood.
Wood added that the book was not required reading and was age appropriate.
Board member Marcus Nicholas also supported retaining the book. He argued that the book provided the opportunity for students to read about life experiences they would otherwise not know about. Nicholas stated that the removal is about limiting thought and conversation.
He noted that parents have always had the right to request alternative materials when objections on content came up.
Board members Daryl Jones and Alva Smith did not make substantive comments related to the book.
The final vote was 5-0.