ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — The Department Chair of English at Northview High School in Escambia County is calling for the school board to evaluate more than 100 books that she says contain explicit sexual content, graphic language, themes, vulgarity and political pushes.
Vicki Baggett has been teaching for 31 years, 20 in Florida and 11 in Alabama. She said she received a classroom novel set that came to her class before the school year ended last year. The set was Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
“It was a book that I had never heard of before,” said Baggett. “When I preread this book, I found that it was full of questionable, age-inappropriate material, including a lot of oral sex, bestiality and things of that nature.”
Immediately, Baggett said she started contacting the Escambia County school district’s office. After waiting on the book to be reviewed, Baggett said she started looking into other books that are currently in the library.
“I wanted to know who ordered these books,” said Baggett. “I had to fill out a form to have this book potentially reviewed and I am still waiting to hear from that. In the meantime, I have been researching different books that we have in all of the schools’ libraries. I have been astonished at what I have found. It has nothing to do with my preference of things, it has to do with what is appropriate, especially by law.”
Another book Baggett found in the library is called Beartown. The story follows the events leading up to the rape of 15-year-old girl Maya Andersson by the star junior hockey player Kevin Erdahl, and the consequences for Maya and Kevin, the players, their families, friends and the community which has a long-standing reputation as a hockey town.
“It has the f-word 83 times,” said Baggett. “It also mentions having sex with animals.”
She went on to mention Eleanor & Park, written by Rainbow Rowell. Baggett said it is very racist towards Asians and Koreans and is also religiously inflammatory.
“It has extreme sexual content,” said Baggett. “Like where children are allowed to listen to their parents have sex. We have books that are especially sexually explicit in our high schools and middle schools. Even at our elementary schools.”
For Baggett, her list is not about banning books, but making sure the books are age appropriate.
“I want to say, since I have spoken out with the media, our school district has taken a stance and I am very happy about this,” said Baggett. “It’s because our parents are speaking up, which I knew would be the case.”
Baggett’s list of books will be converted into a special “Restricted Section” in all Escambia County Public Schools libraries. Parents will have to give permission for their kids to check them out, while they are under review.
“I think the Restricted Section is a great start,” said Baggett. “I think they are being proactive. Some of those may pass the review process, and if so, that is great, but I will have done my part in being a good custodian of students, because so much of this is not appropriate. Until parents start taking and making it their business to see what is available to their high schools, there is nothing else I can do.”
With many of the books in Baggett’s list dealing with the LGBTQ community, she said it is ok if the schools have them, but they need to be in a special category. One book on the list that is included in the elementary school is And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson. The children’s book, illustrated by Henry Cole, tells the story of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who create a family together.
“Parents need to have the say as to whether their minors can check these books out,” said Baggett. “We are not a college library. We are not a public library. So, parents need to have the right for that, unless the child is 18. I am a book lover, but we need to acknowledge what parents want. We do not have the right to introduce these kids to what parents do not agree to.”
Another thing Baggett is concerned about is the number of books that she said discuss rape and pedophilia.
“What I’m seeing in the new literature is that there is nothing wrong with it, that it is the new norm,” said Baggett. “As a matter of fact, my school district will be surprised when I present to them another list of 33 books and the number one book that bothers me the most is about the rape of an eight-year-old girl and by the end of the book, she likes it. The man who does this to her is in his 30s and it is like it is the new norm. How disturbing is this? I’m blown away. We don’t need that in our schools. If for some reason, they review it and they decide that they need to include it to expose children to it, that is fine, but it needs to be marked so parents get to decide if their child can read that. That’s all that this is about.”
The reaction from parents, Baggett said, has been great.
“They were like me, I have been teaching at my school for 20 years and I had no idea that we had books like this in our library,” said Baggett. “They are wanting to figure out how to be able to start monitoring these books. They are very concerned, and they have a right to be. The public school is not the end all to everything goes. We don’t need pornography in our libraries. Often times, these things creep into books, and we don’t even realize what’s going on until we break down and read the books. That’s what I encourage parents to do. Read the books. Be proactive.”
For those interested in seeing the full list of 116 books provided by Baggett, see below: