Florida school board member faces criticism after filing a criminal complaint over LGBTQ book

Florida school board member faces criticism after filing a criminal complaint over LGBTQ book
David Badash
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All around the United States, far-right MAGA Republicans have been declaring war on the teaching of "critical race theory" in public schools — even though CRT, a field of anti-racist academic study, is only being taught on some college campuses. This right-wing campaign against public school teachers and books can cross over into LGBTQ subjects. In Florida, for example, culture warrior Jill Woolbright, a member of the Flagler County School Board, has filed a criminal complaint with her country's sheriff's office over the presence of a book by New Jersey-based gay author George M. Johnson.

The book is "All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto," which has been available in some high schools and middle schools in Florida. The book deals with growing up Black and gay, and Woolbright wants it removed.

Woolbright told WESH-TV Channel 2 (the NBC affiliate in Orlando), "I don't have a problem with the book; I do have a problem with where the book has been placed. Some child could be disturbed to read a book that they're not ready for."

In the police report that she filed, the Flagler County School Board member complained, "Chapter 11 discusses in detail, and (is) very descriptive, about masturbation and oral sex. Chapter 15, 'Losing My Virginity Twice,' is also very descriptive and discusses masturbation, oral sex and sodomy."

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In the public schools of the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway or Spain, a book like "All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto" wouldn't even be controversial. School officials in those West European countries, even those who identify as conservative or politically right-of-center, tend to believe that teenagers are less likely to have sexual problems — from STIs to unplanned pregnancies — if they have easier access to sexual information and sex is discussed openly and candidly. Sex education in West European countries, as a rule, is more explicit than it is in the U.S. and operates from a knowledge-is-power standpoint.

Johnson, in fact, doesn't see why his book has become controversial in Florida.

WESH quotes Johnson as saying, "My book is not what is doing your child harm — it is you who will do your child harm by not allowing them to: (1) learn that other people exist in this world who have a different lived experience than them, and (2) not allowing them to have the language or this particular resource to deal with the problems that will come to them in this world when they arise."

Some of the backlash Woolbright is facing is coming from Cheryl Massaro, a fellow member of the Flagler County School Board. Massaro is calling Woolbright out and stressing that she doesn't speak for everyone on the Board.

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On her Facebook page, Massaro wrote, "I can no longer remain silent and allow a rogue school board member to destroy the hard work of our current and prior board members…. While I firmly believe that Ms. Woolbright is entitled to freely voice her opinion on district issues, I also believe she crossed the line when she filed a criminal complaint against the Flagler Schools' Superintendent and Attorney with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office for permitting books that she believes to be pornographic to be available to middle and high school students. By failing to allow for the investigative process to unfold, she bypassed established District policies and procedures."

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