Orange County Public Schools reviewing controversial book pulled from shelves

Orange County Public School (OCPS) leaders confirmed the removal of four copies of the book "Gender Queer" from shelves. The book had been available at three high schools and is now under review.

In a statement to FOX 35, the district said: 

"Four copies of the book "Gender Queer" are in three of our 22 high schools. The School Board was unaware this book was available in school media centers. At this time, the book is not on library shelves and is under review. If anyone has a concern about materials or books found in our media centers or in our classrooms, Orange County Public Schools has a process in place for parents or guardians to submit a form to the school principal to address a concern." 

The conversation started at Tuesday’s school board meeting when a speaker read excerpts and was ultimately removed from the meeting for using vulgar language.

Just a few weeks ago, FOX 35 reported Brevard County Public Schools removed the same book from shelves. The graphic novel tells the author’s story of gender identity and sexuality – and includes some sexual images. The district said the book was ordered by mistake. 

The state education commissioner says local districts have the autonomy to select books for libraries.

State lawmakers passed legislation that gives parents more power to challenge school content.

"Because there have been too many instances where there have been these crazy books on the bookshelves in the libraries, and it’s like, ‘No, that’s not acceptable.’ I do think the legislature should consider looking at that on a constant basis," said State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

OCPS confirmed Friday that books are selected based on how it meets certain criteria – like school population or the curriculum. It also says trained personnel, including teachers, principals and media specialists, are involved in the selection of library media materials.

The publisher of the book responded to the controversy saying: 

"Oni Press supports Maia Kobabe for the truth and strength in sharing eir story, and hope to be a home for others who want to share their own stories with the world. The fact is, GENDER QUEER is an important, timely piece of work that serves as an invaluable resource for not only those that identity as nonbinary or genderqueer, but for people looking to understand what that means. Limiting its availability is short-sighted and reactionary."  — James Lucas Jones, Publisher

Orange County says it's too early to provide a timeline on the book review because a committee meeting date has not been set.