Controversy ensues in Escambia County as books are pulled from school shelves


Austin Lloyd, Staff Writer

The actions of an Escambia County elementary school have reignited the discussion surrounding a famously polarizing concept: the removal of literature.

Pensacola’s N.B. Cook Elementary School was one of many institutions that gave its kids this last Monday off in honor of Presidents’ Day, and doing so provided teachers with the opportunity to ensure that all was in order for when their students returned on Tuesday. One of those teachers was Mary Sue Skinner.

According to the school’s website, Skinner teaches first grade at N.B. Cook. When teaching such a young demographic, there are matters that need to be approached with great delicacy. One of such matters is deciding the types of media that the kids are exposed to.

This is something that most people—especially parents—would understand and, at least in theory, support. However, the practice has recently become a subject of great controversy, most notably in regards to how it can target something as harmless as a children’s book. On Monday, Skinner was informed that her and her classroom would be the movement’s latest victims.

According to the Pensacola News Journal (PNJ), about half of the titles on her bookshelf were immediately removed for analysis, including but not limited to “Arthur’s Hiccups,” “Big Red Barn” and “Curious George Flies a Kite.”

Skinner was candid with the PNJ about her opposition to the decision, feeling that it is an inexcusable violation of both her freedom as a teacher and the children’s freedoms as students.

“I can’t really grasp the lack of freedom we have been threatened with,” Skinner said. “I never thought in my lifetime something like this [freedom] would go in reverse.”

The decision stems from HB 1467, a house bill that was signed into Florida law last year. It requires school-related materials such as library/classroom literature to be obtained for the sake of being deemed acceptable for children’s eyes. While Skinner and her students are the most recent to see the law in action, it will continue to reach fellow teachers and their classrooms throughout not just the county, but the rest of the state.

Even though Skinner’s profession leaves her witnessing the operation unfold firsthand, the group of those who oppose it reaches far beyond the schools. There have been several others who have voiced their own displeasures in social media comment sections. Similarly to Skinner, many see it as stripping kids of their right to an adequate education. One Facebook user, Lindsey Dixon, was especially critical in response to the news.

“These bigots banning books sure don’t seem like the ’freedom’ and ‘individual responsibility’ and ’against big government and overreach’ folks they keep swearing they are,” Dixon said. “Thoughts and prayers to them when their kids disown them one day.”

Regardless of how many agree or disagree with Dixon’s comments, the practice of removing books from Florida schools will nonetheless proceed, and how much further it will go is currently unknown.