Aug 23, 2022 - Politics

Few Polk County parents use opt-out policy for controversial books

Illustration of a book as the bottom of a padlock.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Only a small number of Polk County Public Schools parents have elected to bar their kids from reading books that a conservative group has labeled pornographic and inappropriate.

Driving the news: Parents had a window of opportunity in August to alert the district that they didn't want their student to have access to 16 library books that a group called County Citizens Defending Freedom demanded be removed from schools.

  • Those books — which include titles such as "Beloved," by Toni Morrison, and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," by Jonathan Safran Foer — were pulled from shelves in January and reviewed by two committees in the spring.
  • The committees recommended that all titles stay on shelves, with some age restrictions.

The latest: Polk superintendent Frederick Heid announced a new "opt-out" policy in late July under which parents could, via online forms, allow or prohibit their children from checking any of the 16 books out of the library. But a district spokesman tells Axios that just 43 families elected to keep kids from seeing some or all of the books that were challenged last year.

  • That's just .043% of the roughly 100,000 students enrolled in Polk County schools.

Yes, but: Critics claim the district's policy is insufficient.

What they're saying: "The backtracking is unfortunate and we're going to be filing police reports against the board, the superintendent and anyone that is distributing the material in question because it violates the law and state statutes," a resident named Robert Goodman told the school board, per


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