Category: Editorial

“Age Appropriate” Does Not Override “Free of Pornography”

November 5, 2022

As a concerned citizen, it is alarming that the current majority on the school board is only looking at one requirement in regard to the questionable library books which is “age appropriateness.” In February, the board voted 4-1 to approve library books with pornographic content based only on age appropriateness. However, with the passage of “The Parental Rights in Education (HR 1467) it is even more clearly stated that education law has four requirements for all library books. These observations addressing those requirements were made during public comment at the SDIRC Business meeting on Monday, October 24, 2022. They were submitted by email to the SDIRC the following day. These comments were based on the September 12, 2022 Workshop discussion regarding the implementation of policy and procedure concerning the book vetting process. The discussion was very heated and the chairwoman, Teri Barenborg, took a 5 minute recess, only to return, reading about “board protocol” directed at Jackie Rosario.

Click here for the link to the discussion.

“To SDIRC Board Members and Superintendent Moore,

**My comments for the 10/24 meeting I wish to have made were longer then the allotted time permitted. I am sharing them in full here. Please refer to the documentation links for further confirmation.**

I am here tonight to comment on the workshop meeting exchange on 9/12/2022 between Jackie Rosario and Teri Barenborg. This came after a presentation about curriculum in view of the new HR 1467 law that went into effect on July 1, 2022 which does demand that the school system have in place a policy for vetting all educational materials. There is no need to get a clarification from the FL Department of Education regarding “what is age appropriate” as Mrs. Barenborg suggests. Her claim that the law does not define it is irrelevant if the book contains pornography already.

As the FL State House analysis of the bill clearly states on page 9, “The bill provides consistency for selecting library materials within each district by requiring each district school board to adopt and post on its website procedures for developing library media center collections. The procedures must (and I will only read the first bullet):

1) require that book selections must be free of pornography and prohibited materials harmful to minors, suited to student needs, and appropriate for grade level and age group.”

This language mimics statute 1006.40(3)(d).

Mrs. Barenborg said she “read the bill” but has to consult with Representative Erin Grall as to what is “age appropriate.” However, based on the legal analysis of the FL House as an elected member, Mrs. Grall would obviously agree with the legislative reasoning and maybe informed the analysis since she is the author of the original Parental Rights legislation.

Furthermore, Mrs. Barenborg’s husband, Ed, is Grall’s legislative aide and he would thoroughly understand the representative’s position. The answer has been stated clearly. To segregate out age appropriate as an overriding question is, in my opinion, the SDIRC chair being political, or, as an author of 8 books, stating, “I do not understand the meaning of the conjunction ‘and’ in proper English.”

The House analysis requirement is also consistent with 1006.28 statute which refers to the same 1006.40 (3)(d) and, the presentation for the adoption of 2520 that was given prior to the discussion at the 9/12 workshop. 1006.28 Section 4D “School library media services; establishment and maintenance.” Point 2(a) says, “Require that book selections meet the criteria in s. 1006.40(3)(d).”

The presentation given at that workshop on 9/12/2022 quoted statute 1006.31 regarding textbook instructional curriculum evaluation and procurement. It states (highlighted):

What is noted about this presentation is the not mentioning of “grade level and age group.” That is because it is understood when choosing textbook curriculum or major tool instruction, it is clearly used for each grade level and age group associated with it. The selection of library books is not different because these materials are support materials for the 6 areas of instructional focus.

If you go back to the House legal analysis, the three other bulleted requirements in the reasoning of the House speak directly to the educational value of materials in the selection process. All of the requirements surmised in the House legal analysis falls perfectly in line with 1006.28, 1006.283, 1006.31 and 1006.40 3(d) of FL law. Ms. Rosario clearly pointed it out in the discussion. She made this example statement regarding age appropriateness, “You don’t give a trigonometry book to a kindergartner.”

Age appropriateness has only to do with education level in the Florida school systems.

If you want to attempt to apply the “movie rating” example as Mrs. Barenborg cited and suggested as process, I can try for you here with one book, Lucky by Alice Sebold which in our schools. In March, Jennifer Pippin was shutdown for attempting to read an excerpt from this book. If you were to make a theatrical release for distribution out of the scene in Chapter one where an adult male is described in full intimate pornographic detail raping a female minor, you would be arrested for showing a minor on screen or in a pictorial in such a manner. There would not be a rating for the movie. If there was such a thing, it would be in some progressive foreign enclave in a red light district under three X’s with the term “Adults only.” Yet, it would still be illegal!

These types of scenes are not grade level and age appropriate for any decent human being and definitely not school children. Minors depicted in sexually explicit video, pictures or other form of visual media is considered a federal crime and violates Florida obscenity statutes. That the Chairperson of this Board needs to understand it like a “movie ratings system” is absolutely the wrong application of Education law. The Florida House analysis of HR 1467 clearly states the education parameters of library materials and their requirements.

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