Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Fla. School Board Member Files Criminal Report Over Black Queer Memoir

Image of the book All Boys Aren't Blue

A white school board member in Florida has filed a criminal complaint about the book All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, which explores the author’s experience growing up as a queer Black person. The board member claims the book’s presence in some schools in the district violates the state’s obscenity laws.

Jill Woolbright, a member of the Flagler County School Board, filed the report with the Sheriff’s Office. The books were found in four schools in the district: two copies at Flagler Palm Coast High School, one at Matanzas High School, and one at Buddy Taylor Middle School, reports The Palm Coast Observer. Administrators at Buddy Taylor Middle School had already pulled the book from its library shelves.

Removing the books is required when a title is challenged, school board attorney Kristy Gavin told Flagler Live.

After meeting with the school district’s superintendent, Cathy Mittelstadt, and Gavin about the books, Woolbright filed the report because school board members weren’t notified of her concerns. She said that she also filed the report due to a Florida law about providing obscene material to a minor.

Fellow school board member Colleen Conklin called Woolbright’s complaint “disingenuous,” according to Flagler Live. “All she had to do was send an email to [the superintendent] thanking her for the meeting time and the discussion and looking forward to the outcome of her investigation and cc’d the board members. If she was so worried about the board members knowing, that’s a very simple thing she could have done,” Conklin said. 

“My concern is for the children of Flagler County,” Woolbright said. “This book needs to be investigated as a crime in our media center. This is pretty heavy stuff, violating our own policies. That’s why I felt the need to file the report, so I know it will be investigated.”

Woolbright gave the copy from Flagler Palm Coast High School to police and asked for it to be submitted into evidence, The Palm Coast Observer reports.

Other books that were targeted by Woolbright include The Hate You Give, Speak, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.

All Boys Aren’t Blue has been a recent target of multiple school boards across the country as parents and school board members go after books covering sexuality, gender identity, and race.

As Rawstory reports, the book’s achievements include being an Amazon Best Book of the Year, a Teen Vogue Recommended Read, a People Magazine Best Book of the Summer, a New York Library Best Book of 2020, Publishers Weekly Anti-Racist Reading List Pick, a CNN Summer Read Pick, among other distinctions.

On Twitter, All Boys Aren’t Blue’s author said they were still trying to come up with a response.

“I’m still figuring it all out,” Johnson said when asked how someone could help. “I’m gonna be doing some interviews to fight against it especially for the other authors who are being intimidated by these folks.”

Gabrielle Union, who optioned the TV rights to All Boys Aren't Blue earlier this year, took to Twitter to defend Johnson and the book. 

“What's she gonna do when the TV show comes out?” Union wrote. “You cannot stop the truth.”

In a recent interview, Johnson told The Advocate, “[My publisher and I] knew that at some point, once the pandemic shifted [schools] to more in-class [instruction], where parents could get a hold on what was going on in the curriculum and the reading list and everything that this moment would probably come.”

“A book isn't held that long before people start to make these particular types of attempts at it,” they said.

Johnson told The Advocate that those seeking to ban the book are doing a disservice to students, especially queer students of color who may have never found another book describing a similar experience.

“Denying kids sex education, denying kids understanding around consent, understanding around topics of racism, topics of gender and topics of identity, it does nothing to help the child because the child still has to exist in a world where all of those things exist,” they said.

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