School Superintendent Calls Some Local Book Challenges “Legitimate”

Posted on July 25, 2023 by Romi White

Santa Rosa County Schools’ Instructional Technology Specialist Ruth Witter, pictured at the podium during Monday’s school board meeting, provided an update, including details on how materials are selected for the Santa Rosa County Schools library system. “When we go to our vendors, we are shopping from a place, we are selecting from a place that has already done a lot of the work for us,” Witter said, noting the district partners with “reputable” vendors, like Follett and Mackin, to receive recommendations, peer reviews and high-quality books.

Dozens of locals showed up during the July 24 Santa Rosa School Board meeting for discussion on the District’s handling of complaints over school library content, including what many consider to be pornographic material. Superintendent Karen Barber described some of the book challenges as “legitimate” and noted measures have been taken to address the concerns.

Per the District’s website, 32 books in its library system have been removed from schools or quarantined for review since the issue first came to light in May after Mariya Calkins, founder of the Santa Rosa County Chapter of Moms for Liberty, started exposing content group members and others found accessible via the District’s library system. 

“Every single challenge that we have received has been documented. We have either removed them or quarantined them so that we can go through the review process thoughtfully, carefully, legally,” Barber said. “Our books and our collections have been collected over decades. Some of the challenges that have been entered are legitimate. I don’t want them in either.”

Barber said quarantined material has been removed from student access while the District awaits guidance from the Florida Department of Education before updating policies in the wake of the passage of the House Bill 1069, which went into effect July 1.

That legislation enhances the process for transparency and review of library and classroom materials available to students in public schools and the process for parents to limit student access to materials and make objections to materials. The bill requires the suspension of materials alleged to contain pornography or obscene depictions of sexual conduct, as identified in current law, pending resolution of an objection to the material.

Roughly 30 people spoke out during Monday’s board meeting, including about a dozen who expressed support for keeping content accessible and/or support for the District’s response to challenges so far.

“We want our students to think critically about the information they are receiving,” said Navarre mom Kendra Booth, a former District teacher who serves on a Library Media Commission. Booth used the Cornell Law School definition of pornography to argue that “the presence of nudity or sexual acts in piece (SIC) of media does not necessarily make that media pornographic if the purpose of that media form is something other than sexual stimulation.”

But many opposing the content in schools cited that FDOE requires school districts to be free from pornography and materials harmful to minors pursuant to Florida State Statute 847.012. Additionally, Attorney Oscar Locklin, who has four children in District schools and serves on Jay High’s School Advisory Council, described the District’s existing process to challenge books as a “cumbersome, Byzantine, 6-step process.” 

Per the District’s website, the following books have been quarantined, removed or lost/not retured (not to be replaced):

  • Crank – quarantined at 3 schools, removed from 1;
  • Eleanor and Park – quarantined at 4 schools, removed from 2;
  • Thirteen Reasons Why – quarantined at 5 schools, removed from 4;
  • Tricks – quarantined at 1 school, removed from 2;
  • Twisted – lost from 2 schools, quarantined at 2, removed from 3;
  • Zahra’s Paradise – removed from 1 school;
  • Relish: My Life in the Kitchen – removed from 1 school;
  • Fun Home: Family Tragicomic – quarantined from 1 school;
  • American Psycho – removed from 1 school;
  • All Your Perfects – quarantined at 1 school;
  • Push – quarantined at 1 school;
  • Empire of Storms – quarantined at 2 schools, removed from 1;
  • Water for Elephants – quarantined at 1 school, removed from 1;
  • Boy Toy – removed from 1 school;
  • The Sun and Her Flowers – quarantined at 1 school, removed from 1;
  • The Bluest Eye – quaranted at 4 schools;
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian – lost at 1 school, quarantined at 6;
  • Sophie’s Choice – quarantined at 2 schools;
  • Girl Parts – lost at 1 school, quarantined at 2;
  • Defy Me – quarantined at 1 school;
  • Alice on the Outside – removed at 1 school;
  • The Truth About Alice – quarantined at 2 schools;
  • The Kite – quarantined at 1 school;
  • Runner – quarantined at 2 schools;
  • The Poet X – quarantined at 4 schools;
  • A Curse of Roses – not returned at 1 school, quarantined at 1;
  • Dead End – quarantined at 1 school;
  • Shine – removed from 1 school
  • People Kill People – quarantined at 1 school;
  • Ugly Love – quarantined at 2 schools;
  • Milk and Honey – quarantined at 1 school;
  • It – quarantined at 2 schools.

To see more details about the aforementioned books click here >>>  Santa Rosa School District Reconsideration List

To see unredacted versions of complaints visit and click on Column D ***Not all complaints have been submitted for the list of books eyed for review.