Editor’s Note: This article was originally published as an Opinion Article. It has since been republished as a News & Commentary Article, now being moved to the Elections News Section
At Peter O’Bryan’s County Commission Forum on July 11th, 2022, School Board Candidates Cindy Gibbs (District 2) and Teri Barenborg (Incumbent-District 4) both defended the Obscene Books with sexually explicit content being in schools.
Commissioner O’Bryan was the moderator and asked the following question to the candidates: “The school district had a committee of media specialist, district staff and members of the local community, review 156 library books for appropriate content. A small number of books were removed. A slightly larger number were moved from middle school to high school. In addition an opt-out form was created for parents who wish to prevent their children from checking out certain books. In your opinion, does the school district have an appropriate policy to one, ensure appropriate content and two to allow parental involvement?”
Cindy Gibbs said regarding the Obscene Books with Sexually Explicit Content that were found in the School Libraries: “I think the process that we went through this year is appropriate. I know not everybody’s going to be happy with that answer but we have to make sure that our students’ 1st Amendment Rights are just as important as their Parents’. They are also citizens of the United States.”
The U.S. Supreme Court currently does not protect Obscenity as Free Speech, per U.S. Supreme Court Cases “Roth v. United States/Alberts v. California” (1957) and “Memoirs v. Massachusetts” (1966). The U.S. Supreme Court has also curtailed Free Speech on School Campuses, such as in the cases “Bethel School District v. Fraser” (1986) and “Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier” (1988).
The test from the Memoirs case came up with the following test that is still used today. For literature to be considered Obscene under the law, it has pass the following criteria:
Appeal to prurient Interest
Be patently Offensive
Have no redeeming social value
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Defines the word “Prurient” as “marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire; especially : marked by, arousing, or appealing to sexual desire”
Some of the books like Push by Sapphire, definitely make all three of these criteria.
Here’s an excerpt from Push (reader discretion is advised):
Daddy sick me, disgust me, but still he sex me up. I nawshus in my stomach but hot tight in my twat and I think I want it back, the smell of the bedroom, the hurt-he slap my face till it sting and my ears sing separate songs from each other, call me names, pump my pussy in out in out in out awww I come. He bite me hard. A hump! A hump! He slam his hips into me HARD. I scream pain he come. He slap my thighs like cowboys do horses on TV. Shiver. Orgasm in me, his body shaking, grab me, call me Fat Mama, Big Hole! You LOVE it! Say you love it! I wanna say I DON”T. I wanna say I’m a chile. But my pussy popping like grease in frying pan. He slam in me again. His dick soft. He start sucking my tittie.
…Then my body take me over again, like shocks after earthquake, shiver me, I come again. My body nto mine, I hate coming. Afterward I go bafroom. I smear shit on my face.
I’m not quoting more beyond that, but it’s sad, it really is. The fact we got people running for office that were ok with that. Thank you to Jennifer Pippin, Moms for Liberty Indian River, Florida Chairman, for sending that to me for this article.
I actually personally know some people in my life that have been through horrific sexual abuse. While I will be scant on details to protect their privacy, I will say people within that orbit have been mortified that such books that I find are considered Obscene under Florida Law, are allowed currently in Public School Libraries. Some of these people have been deeply hurt by the fact these books are in there.
So as far as I’m concerned, I find it appalling Cindy you would advocate for something like that, I really, really do. We have Obscenity laws for a reason.
Gibbs also said regarding the books: “I think the books belong in the library. I think if there’s a question about a particular book, we can have a process for that. But I don’t think we have a sweeping movement of things like that because it’s a distraction. We need to talk more about student achievement than a couple of library books. We can have that side conversation, but it shouldn’t be the overarching focus of our school system, we have too many other things to be concerned about.”
Any time a citizen has a concern with something related to government, especially parents when it comes to the school board, it needs to be heard. Citizens, including Parents, were the ones who brought the issue of the books forward. I think this is a foreshadowing of what would happen, were Gibbs to be elected. I think certain issues like this one would be ignored. Many parents have had concern about making sure, the District follows the law. Even the Sheriff’s Office didn’t seem thrilled about that when they had to do their investigation. Sheriff Flowers had said in his letter to Superintendent Dr. David Moore and the School Board regarding the Obscene Books “some of the content in these books is highly questionable and I certainly would not want my child to have access to it. I would recommend that the District continue to review their policy to allow for stricter oversight prior to books such as these being made available to children.”
Teri Barenborg was one of the four School Board members who voted on February 28th to put the books with Sexually Explicit Content back on the shelves. Some of those books may have fit the criteria to go back on, but there very well (and I suspect there are) more books like Push that got put back onto the shelves. So Yes, Teri voted to put Push by Sapphire back onto the shelf, where it may be in the County School System.
Moms for Liberty Indian River, Florida holds the same conclusion I do regarding the books that were pulled and put back onto the bookshelves across the District (at the schools that currently have these books).
Below is what she said. I will be responding to portions of it due to the length of what she said:
“I wish I had a half hour, 10 minutes to answer this question, because this is not an easy question, the reason why is because most Districts across Florida had 20-30 books brought to the District who said you know we think this is pornography. I think this is 156. I couldn’t read 156 books that fast and everything else I had to read, but I did read 8. Out of those 8 I read, I questioned why they were of concern, especially when someone brought one to a District meeting and showed graphic pictures of people and it horrified me and I thought, why are we doing this.”
This right here is troubling. She didn’t review all the material she needed before taking a vote. I spoke to Michael Sabga from the John Birch Society. He told me it’s concerning that he keeps seeing elected officials at all levels of government, not fully reviewing the materials they need to review, prior to taking a vote on something. He said this is what is leading to things like these books ending up in our schools, because we’re not fully reviewing the material we need to review.
Barenborg could have called Jennifer Pippin and asked for the worst books that were pulled. Pippin would have probably send the worst ones to Barenborg to review, with the most graphic parts of those books picked out.
Barenborg continued, having then picked up a book, saying:
“This is the book, it has no pictures in it; this is the only copy we have in the District. The reason why I bring that up is because we have to make sure that we’re looking at the version that we have in the school system. And the version we have in the school system is an education version. Not on all these books, but I believe these books should be reviewed, any book people bring up should be rereviewed. As we’re going along with this, I was watching House Bill 1467 going through and House Bill 67 is the K12 Education Bill and it talks about forming a committee, which the committee we formed for this was mostly librarians. This committee we need to form is going to be mostly parents and community members, that’s who I believe who should be on this committee, to look at books in the libraries. Someone told me the TV version of this [while holding the book] and it scared me. I don’t think we have books in our library that’s appropriate for every parent.”
The law as far as I’m concerned, the law does not care about what people think is appropriate and what is not. The if the law says something is obscene and inappropriate, that is what it is, unless that law is changed.
Right now, the law says Obscene books like Push by Sapphire are not appropriate for minor children to be knowingly given to by an adult with knowledge of that books’ horrific content.
Barenborg continued her statements, leading to why she voted Yes at the February 28th School Board General Business Meeting:
“I voted for parents to have a choice over what their children were going to be able to have access to in our libraries at that time. I chose for parents to have choice for their own children, not for parents to choose for other children. And I think that’s important because if we’re talking about parental rights, we’re talking about the fact that we need to make sure that parents have the choice for their own children. But yes we need to review the books, we need to have this committee and we’re going to move forward, the State is going to create a State Standard, which is what needs to happen for grade level appropriateness.”
I think the changes in the law to clarify this situation with the books was definitely needed. Hopefully this new committee can help provide more clarity to the other board members who have had other questions surrounding these books moving forward.
To reiterate, the law in this case does not allow Parents the choice to whether or not they can knowingly give their child a book like Push by Sapphire with the sexual explicit content in that book.
This has and always will be, about ensuring the law is followed when it comes to Obscenity in the State of Florida and keeping Obscenity out of Schools.
And again, the U.S. Supreme Court does not protect Obscenity.
LaDonna Corbin (District 2) said in her response to the question on the Obscene Books “all books should be, we should have all appropriate books within our school system. I do think the system school board has agreed to, for parents to exercise their right to have the kids read or not, the books are in the library, but have given parents the choice to read those books within the library system.”
I agree that we do need to have appropriate books within our schools. However, Parents cannot knowingly give their children or any child for that matter, a book with Obscene, Sexually Explicit Content that violates FL Statute 847.012.
The same goes for the Media Specialists, they cannot violate FL Statute 847.012 on knowingly giving a minor child a reading book with Obscene, Sexually Explicit Content.
Again, as stated, the U.S. Supreme Court does not protect Obscenity under the 1st Amendment, per “Roth v. United States/Alberts v. California” (1957) and “Memoirs v. Massachusetts” (1966).
Josh Post (District 2) was interesting, he sounded a lot like Jackie Rosario and he could even be considered a potential Jackie Rosario ally. However, I found something concerning when I took the transcript of what he spoke about during the forum, though not as severe, but still not good.
Here’s the quote and I’m going to bold the problematic part of it
Now I’m going to be very candid with you, I don’t think the books belong in the schools, if they’re pornographic, they have any type of things that belong in the public education libraries. They can go to the public library all day long if they want their child to read that book, I’ve got no problem how you raise your child, is how you raise your children, but it shouldn’t be involved in our school system.
The problem is, this is a borderline suggestion for Parents to break the law as some of these books, again, like Push by Sapphire, cannot be given to minor children as doing so would violate the State’s Obscenity Statute FL 847.012 for doing so.
Incumbent District 2 School Board Member Jackie Rosario said regarding the Obscene Books with Sexually Explicit Content: “Ok so for those of you who know, I am the only School Board member who brought this up for a vote in November, on November 16th. This is an issue that is very, very serious to me. I think it is absolutely inappropriate for sexual content or pornographic information of any kind to be in our school libraries. I’m going to read to you from our Obscenity Statute, it is a Statute, it is the law.”
The following is the FL Statute Mrs. Rosario read from, Chapter 847.012 Obscenity:
“(3) A person may not knowingly sell, rent, or loan for monetary consideration to a minor:
(a) Any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film, videocassette, or similar visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity or sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sexual battery, bestiality, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors; or
(b) Any book, pamphlet, magazine, printed matter however reproduced, or sound recording that contains any matter defined in s. 847.001, explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, or sexual conduct and that is harmful to minors.”
Ms. Rosario continued saying “847.001 has two pages worth of definitions that express what exactly are obscene within the content of educational material that appears in our schools. It’s not just the library books, it pertains to our curriculum as well, whether that is curriculum or by supplemental material. So I will tell you that there is absolutely no place in our schools for these books. We are not a public library system. We are a public education system that happens to have a library in it. And the number one client we serve are children under the age of 18. There is no way shape or form, according to the law, that those books are appropriate, they are not age appropriate, they are not; they have absolutely no educational value, scientific value or any other value for that matter for our children.”
Right after this, people in the audience started to give one of the only applause anyone got while the forum went on. Commissioner O’Bryan quickly quieted the crowd, mentioning how good everyone had been doing through the forum.
School Board District 4 Candidate Thomas Kenny said regarding the Obscene Books with Sexually Explicit Content, “so I’m one who doesn’t believe the process was done right at all” regarding the process of checking the 156 books that were pulled. He continued “one of the things that happened in this committee was that all these specialists got together and did what they did and then there was a call out to parents, particularly one in this room who invited a few of us we sat and had a discussion with the media specialist. But as far as parents and different things like that being on the committee? No. And then we were told well there are parents who are working in the school system the Media Specialists who have kids in the school therefore we’ve met the parent requirement. That’s not good. That’s a lack of transparency and making it up as you go along, and that’s what happened here.”
Kenny then said to look at the FL Obscenity Statute 847.012 and Florida Curriculum Statute. He continued saying “because in case you don’t know, the school system can use up to 50% of their curricular budget to buy extra materials: library books, videos, what have you, right? Supplemental stuff.
Kenny then proceeds to cite FL Statute 1006.4 “any materials purchased pursuant to this section (the curriculum section), free of pornography, and material prohibited under 847.012; suited to the student’s needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented appropriate for the grade level and age group which the materials are used or made available.” After he’s done citing the law, he says “so it has to be free of pornography, then age appropriate.” Kenny said the committee that had vetted these books, only vetted them by age appropriateness.
Kenny said the vetting system is like a “movie grading system; really loose” and suggested all the books be revisited for review. He also said they should be removed while being reviewed.
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