Book Causes Parental Stir in Florida

TAVARES (FL) -- A book in a middle school library already has upset one parent. David Myers, of Tavares, brought the book "Me, Penelope" to school board members Monday and read a sexually explicit passage involving a 16-year-old girl.

Myers' 12 year old daughter, a student at Tavares Middle School, checked the book out after getting permission from the librarian, he said.

"I'm to the point right now where I'm about ready to pull my daughter out and start signing the check to private school," Myers said. "But 95 percent of the parents of the kids that go to these schools can't do that."


"I don't think there would be any community support for keeping a book like this on our shelf," said Barrow.

"And we are NOT about to find out. All busybodies, nosy Nellies, scolds and pathological Jesus addicts in favor of banning say "aye."

Excellent. So who's for Applebee's and a Kirk Cameron movie?"

Florida. Why is it always Florida?

According to the link, the book isn't even published yet. Is the librarian circulating an ARC like a real book?

"Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds"

-Candide by Voltaire

Thanks for pointing that out. The book is due out in March 2009.

Oh, sure. Go ahead and try to ban this book, and ignore the fact that your daughter asked the librarian for permission to check it out. Avoid the fact that she was probably curious, and turn away from an opportunity to have an important talk with her. Spend your time trying to get it banned, thereby preventing anyone from reading the book. Nice.

that many of these people who complain about books just want their 15 minutes of fame. Seriously.

Geez, if people were concerned about their kids reading these books they would go to the library with them and take the books to which they object out of their kids' hands with an explaination why they feel it is not appropriate - well as much as an explaination as is age appropriate.

These people want to tell other people's kids what to read, and other parents what is appropriate for their children. They don't want to wait for these people to come to them for their opinion - as perchance one might go to their priest, rabbi, or imam asking should my kid read this book it has gay penguins?

Nope these people want the spotlight so they can preach to others what they feel is right, they want to set the example for others. Well unfortunately most others either don't care, wish these people would STFU, or a small fraction already parent their children without assistance from zealots.

While there is a proper way to challenge the appropriateness of a book for a particular collection, getting on the news or standing in front of the School or Library board with the book in one hand and your crown of thorns in the other is much more dramatic and ego boosting.

9/10 of the people you meet on any given day will be self aggrandizing simpletons.

It is amazing how people can read a very short article and draw some very large conclusions. I am not some religious zealot or some self aggrandizing simpleton. I am a professional with a Masters Degree. What happened here was that a book with very sexaully graphic descriptions was placed in the general collection and not the young adult section of the middle school. I agree that this book may be age appropriate for an older age group, but no responsible parent could believe that 12 years old falls into that age. This book is only in High Schools in other counties in Central Florida. My daughter did not have to ask a librarian for permission, she just checked the book out. There were very specific policies dealing with books of this nature and those policies were not followed. We attempted to deal with the issue first with the school before going to the school board but were getting nowhere.

I have worked in the school system in the past and anyone that knows me knows that I have been dealing with the problems of children and teenagers first hand for almost 20 years, and no it has not been through some right wing Evangelical church.

Yes I have talked with my daughter about sex and I have had my fifteen minutes of fame. Unfortunately it was dealing with the Murder of a child at this same middle school 13 years ago. So please before anyone begins throwing out broad assumptions of censorship, know some more of the facts.

How did you challenge the book, whilst I did describe what many book banners appear to be - and frankly I would probably relocate or not purchase many of the books to which people object as I feel - frequently the book banners go overboard on their crusade rather than proceeding methodically through the oft laborious process.

It would benefit us to know how you challenged the book, the article does mention that you addressed the board, but did you discuss it with the school librarian or principal, and if so did they ignore your concers.

I am not a school librarian, but I would not have selected this book for my school library if I were. I am in Clearwater and I think the community standards of your part of the state are not dissimilar to ours over here.

Thank you for responding as you have, it is always much more informative to hear from the primary source, rather than some second hand account.


I would not have known about this blog except that a friend in our community forwarded it to us for FYI. Yes I will be glad to explain a little more. After discovering the content of the book my daughter brought home, I first wanted to make sure I was not overreacting so I showed it to at least a half dozen friends and colleagues all of whom agreed that the book was not appropriate for middle school. I went to the middle school and spoke with an Assistant Principal. She advised we would have to go through the school district challenge process which was fine with me. She could not provide me with the paperwork at the time, but asked to have the book for review. Later that afternoon she contacted me and I was advised that the Librarian and the Principal would review the book over the weekend and if they thought it was inappropriate we would not have to do the challenge process.

After the weekend I was again contacted by the Assistant Principal who advised the book was deemed appropriate for middle school and we would need to come and pick up the paperwork. I now had two thoughts, either it was reviewed in which case my daughter's school administration as my dad would say "didn't have the common sense god gave a rabbit" or it was not reviewed and now we had a whole other issue. I was out of town so my wife went that day to pickup the paperwork. It was the results of this meeting that changed our mind from starting the challenge process and to going directly to the School Board. First, after speaking further with our daughter we discovered the book was in general circulation not in the young adult section in violation of district policy. The other was when we found out that the policy on young adult books was that the librarian just would have had to ask my daughter if her parents would approve of her reading a book deemed sexual explicit (which was not even done in this case). I have to sign a permission form for my child to go on a field trip or dissect a frog, but all that has to happen for my child to check out a sexually explicit book is the librarian ask her if her parents would be ok with it. That is not a responsible policy.

If you look into information about our area over the last four years you will find that there has been an extremely strained relationship between our outgoing School Superintendent and the School Board. So much so that on the agenda the night of the School Board meeting was whether the school system was going to pay the cost of a private attorney for the Superintendent to fight the School Board. In fact it seems like this book is the only thing the Superintendent and the School Board have agreed upon in the last 4 years. This relationship has caused our schools to suffer, hence my comment about moving my daughter to private school (it was not just about the book).

You only have 3 minutes to present an issue to our School Board at public to be heard. So I just stood up and started to read the book. I was only two paragraphs in when I was stopped by the School Board Chairman and advised it was inappropriate. I then asked then what made it appropriate to check it out to my 12 year old from her public school library. Since the meeting we have been communicating with the School Board by email. I feel the School Board is taking the appropriate action. The book has been entered into the district challenge process by the current Superintendent (Her last day is next week). There is an investigation as to how it wound up in general circulation to see if policies need to be improved. When the new Superintendent takes office there will be a review of the 12 books that are deemed young adult to make sure they are age appropriate for middle school and the policy will be looked at on parental permission for checking out books that fall into that category.

In conclusion I have great respect for what librarians and educators do. My mother was actually one of the founders of the public library in Allentown, NJ and she was a librarian there for several years. But I believe a parent of a 12 year old should have as much say as to whether a child should be able to read an R rated book as they do with whether or not they watch an R rated movie.

I am not surprised that you were told that it was OK after the principal reviewed it over the weekend, and I have a suspiscion that the review was cursory at best.

I most probably would have handled it the same way you did. Being a librarian myself I know the rigors of a library science program and that of a school librarian are not dissimilar to that of the under car staff at jiffy lube. If Library Journal or some other publication says it is fine for middle schoolers then the librarian will fight tooth and nail to keep it available for middle school students.

It is good to hear that the school board actually took an intrest, in my county they are simply a group of cackling blowhards who exist solely to argue with the superintendant they hired. As were recently voted I voted against all of the incumbents on the school board that were on my ballot, all of the opposing candidate were much better choices.

Thank you as well for allowing me to examine my thoughts on book challenges. I still feel the people who take a book out and them make a public spectacle of not returning it because they disagree with it are in it for the glow of the limelight. However parents who go about things in a rational systematic manner are simply being parents, something I wish more baby mommas and baby daddys would do.

Good luck with your sure to be uphill battle. Please keep us informed.

"So please before anyone begins throwing out broad assumptions of censorship, know some more of the facts."

Dear Mr. Myers,

What is it, specifically, that you believe is offensive about "Me, Penelope"?

Being a librarian myself I know the rigors of a library science program and that of a school librarian are not dissimilar to that of the under car staff at jiffy lube.

I went to a barber college and need to believe everyone is as half-educated as I am. I also like bullying kindly, older women on the internet.

Thats about the same amount of ability it takes to handle law school. The only difference is that the ABA has created a private and convoluted system of law, the educational equivalent of the turkish puzzle ring, while Librarians have created a rather direct and openly public system of organizing information. Its direct. With law, they create a sort of "cataloging system' that requires you to use fifty or a hundred catalogs to find the bit of information you are looking for. It is purposely convoluted in order to create a need for lawyers. There is absolutely no need for the current complexities of the legal system, other than as a method to create a need for lawyers.

The simple proof that librarianship is still not a simple profession lies in the very large number of members of the public and even educated non librarians who cannot manuver through the simplicities of the Dewey Decimal system or Cutter numbers. This is a decimal system using a base ten numerical system and the alphabet. Its not rocket science and still a significant majority of non librarians cannot use it correctly
I have seen dozens of untrained clerks and pages, even librarians with B.A. degrees misshelve the same book repeatedly. I used to keep about 20 books at my desk and I would give them to the same people over and over again, and watch them be misshelved day after day after day by the same "Smart College Graduates"

I've both a law degree and an MLS. I don't shelve. I'm surprised I make it through the day.

N.B. I don't do either in the traditional sense for a living.

but there is no indication anywhere of the place you got your Juris Doctor of LLD anyplace. These are legal requrements to be considered to have a law degree in virtually in North America.

I have seen no evidence in the last 7 or 8 years in which I have been examining your assertions of any evidence of a law degree that would be acceptable for taking the bar exam today.

Look here Selection number 4.

Most inital law degrees awarded in the US are the JD. Traditionally it was the LLB, the degree I hold by the way, until the middle of the 20th century. You will see older practitioners with their LLB diplomas displayed in their office.

The next degree above the JD or LLB is the LLM. The LLD is not equivalent to the JD. The JD and the LLB are first professional degrees. The LLD is not awarded as an academic credential in the United States to the best of my knowledge. Doctoral level studies in the US generally award a Doctor of Juridical Science or SJD (or DJS in a few cases). There are doctoral law degrees, including a Ph.D in Law, or the JDC - Doctor of Canon Law. The JCD requires two years of study of Canon Law beyond the JCL, the Licentiate in Canon Law. Canon is of course not Civil or Commom law, but the law of the Roman Catholic Church. If I am not incorrect the only institution authorized by the Holy See to award the JCD in the United States is the Catholic University of America.

I would very much like to study for my JCL, if I only had the time.

See you just have to ask. Want me to post my Mensa membership card too?

Can you please tell me what some of those acronyms are for? I am very interested, but confused...

The LL.B. is a Bachelor of Laws, or Legum Baccalaureus: the most common law degree in the world. [The L is double because in Latin to make an abbrevation plural you double the letter being abbreviated - in this case it is Laws, not Law.] It is the inital professional degree to enter the practice of law in most countries.

The J.D. is equivalent to the LLB. Almost all US law schools (if not all) award the degree of Juris Doctor. In the US most first professional degrees are professional doctorates exempli gratia: MD, DO, DDS, DVM, OD. Contrast these with terminal doctorates such as the Ph.D. or D.Music.

In Ireland ( of which I am most familiar) the first professinal degrees are frequently bachelor's degrees, MB, BDS
The inital professional degree programs in medicine and dentistry are 5 years after would would be considered 'high school', there is no undergraduate degree undertaken prior to the medical or dental degree.

Similarly the law degree is a four year degree undertaken after 'high school'. There are options at some schools for a 2 year law degree (again the LLB) for holders of other undergraduate degrees.

In the United States the most common practice is to require an undergraduate degree (in any field) before studies for the first professional degree are undertaken. There are certain medical schools that will enroll a 3rd year undergraduate and after 4 more years award both a B.S and M.D. Many law schools offer a JD/Ph.D program over the course of 5 or 6 years after the undergraduate degree is completed.

The Roman Catholic degree, JCL and JCD approximate a Masters and Doctorate in Canon law. There are only a few schools in the world that offer these degrees. Unless you wish to work in the Catholic Church there is little reason one would consider these degrees. One can not practice law in any state solely with one of these degrees.

There are two very good pages from the US Department of Education that discuss professional doctorates, and research doctorates. A number of doctorates have their acronyms laid bare there for you as well.

I hope I was able to answer your question.

The fact remains that in most large public libraries, librarians are required to shelve often, in times of staff shortages, as well as when regular clerical staff is on vacation or other leave.

This also requires them to locate materials as well. A large percentage of the so called "Smart College graduate" who is hired to work as a librarian in general does not do much better, if better at all, than the public, or a clerical staff member, in actually being able to use the various cataloging systems to locate materials. Being able to locate them requires the same skills as the shelving them.

If you take a "smart college graduate" who finally was able to learn how to utilize the LC system sometime before graduation day, they were even less competant at switching over to Dewey and could not grasp Cuttering at all in either situation.

The simplest way to teach one of these people how to retrieve materials found in the catalog from the shelves is to simply require them to to the reverse. To put them BACK on the shelves. People without MLS training, even those with advanced degrees show no greater ability to use this system than a high school drop out with an eighth grade education.

I have had "smart B.A.'s" pull the Sarah Palin event of not being able to locate materials on the country of Africa.

You're focusing too much on the degree and so-called "smart graduates". DDC, cutter numbers, and shelving are not hard to learn. I grew up with Dewey at my public library, easily converted to LOC while at college, and just as easily converted back to Dewey when I went to work at a public library. Once you take a few minutes to actually try to understand the classification system, it shouldn't be hard to figure it out. Maybe these "smart grads" aren't actually trying to understand the system or look at the big picture. Maybe they don't want to think at all. A degree has nothing to do with that.

As for shelving, it seems simple at first. "Go put that book back." But any shelver will tell you there are always exceptions to the rule. First, we have our new fiction section, the paperback racks, the Caldecott and Newbery books are are on special shelves, the concepts books have their own shelf. Then there are always the special displays. Our library uses color-coded stickers for display books, but sometimes those stickers are overlooked. It is always difficult for someone who doesn't shelve very often to know all the ins and outs, all the special details. Any at my library, only the library director is a degreed librarian, and she never shelves. Ever. We are not a large library either.

I don't understand. If the book is not slated for publication until March, 2009, how did it get on so many library shelves before the close of 2008? The argument seems to have run off course here, and become about library degrees and the people who have them, instead of about a book which was written for a middle school audience and which has horrified an older audience.

I suspect children usually know more than what we as adults feel they should know about a variety of topics. They live in a parallel universe, and keep their own counsel. I recall explaining cutting to my family, and turning to my 14 year old niece who was sitting quietly listening to ask if she had heard about the behavior. She told us it was a raging fad in her school. Her parents knew nothing about it.

mdoneil had asked for an update to this so I am responding. This last Friday the book was reviewed by the middle school's media review committee and was deemed inappropriate to be in our middle school. The book has been pulled from the shelf and the school system has stated that they will review their policy with regard to parental notification when a child selects a book that has been deemed sexually explicit.

Thanks very much. It seems as though it worked quite well. The book was reviewed by the materials committee and a decision was made.

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