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Sarasota School Board rejects request to ban book from middle school libraries

Cover of a book by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi named "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You." The black figure of a person's profile is covered by the title in blue and white with red stripes underneath it.
The Sarasota County school board voted unanimously Feb. 7, 2023 to keep the book 'Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You' in middle school libraries. They also voted to require parental permission for students to check it out after one parent said it taught critical race theory.

The board is requiring parental permission for middle schoolers to check out "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You."

The Sarasota County school board voted unanimously Tuesday to keep a book in middle school libraries that had been challenged by one parent for teaching critical race theory.

However, by a 3-to-2 vote, the board will require parental permission for middle schoolers to check out "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You".

The book, written by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, was challenged in May 2021 by the mother of a Venice Middle School student.

Her complaint alleged that the book taught that all white people are inherently racist, and that allowing it in schools was akin to allowing books that support Nazi ideology.

A review committee comprised of media specialists, school principals, teachers and parents ruled in November that the book doesn't violate Florida laws.

Tuesday's vote was the final step in the school system's materials challenge process.

Booker Middle School student Tallulah Brand was among nearly 20 people who spoke out against removing the book from library shelves.

"You want to ban a book saying racism isn't right and your reason is that this book is racist?" she said to laughs from some in the crowd and on the board.

"We can't start banning books just because one person has an issue with it. At this rate we won't have any books left."

Brand's mother, Kia Brand, spoke to WUSF about her concerns over the potential ban Monday.

"It was just good to be able to read the book, and, you know, read about people that I really didn't know a lot about, like Angela Davis. I didn't know about all the things that she's done for women and prison reform," Brand told WUSF's Kerry Sheridan. "And, you know, just being able to learn more about Black history that I definitely would not have known had I not read the book.

"It's funny to me, they say [it's about] parents' rights. And it really is taking away rights from a large group of parents."

Since "Stamped" is not required reading for courses but rather, "self-selected" outside of class by students, the board's legal counsel said it does not fall under the stricter guidelines passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. DeSantis last year for curriculum material.

Information from WUSF reporter Kerry Sheridan was used in this story.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.
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