The Florida chapter of Moms 4 Liberty (M4L), a far-right “parents’ rights group”, has filed a criminal complaint against the Indian River County School District for having library books with LGBTQ themes. Even more concerning was the local sheriff’s response to the group’s complaint.
This story began in November 2021 when M4L told the district school board to remove 51 “pornographic or sexually explicit” books from school libraries. M4L’s list reportedly included LGBTQ-inclusive titles such as “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
M4L then submitted a criminal complaint to the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. After the supervisor of the office’s child sex crime unit conducted “a thorough review”, Sheriff Eric Flowers wrote that the reviewed books’ content “do not allow us to make an arrest in this case.”
“However,” Flowers wrote, “based upon this review, we do not feel that this content is appropriate for young children even though it does not rise to the level of a crime.”
“Some of the content in these books is highly questionable and I certainly would not want my child to have access to it,” he concluded. “I would recommend that the district continue to review their policy to allow for stricter oversight prior to books such as these being made available to children.”
Flowers’ response is concerning because it helps add legitimacy to M4L’s true aim: banning books without full transparency or oversight. The district could start quietly removing titles from school libraries just to avoid public controversy, and one study suggests that many schools do exactly that.
Groups like M4L regularly pressure school boards to ban books without going through the official district policies and public transparency protocols meant to ensure that schools don’t violate First Amendment prohibitions against government officials banning free expression, a recent study by the free-speech organization PEN America found.
Many of the books removed from schools libraries don’t even meet the legal definitions for “obscenity” and “pornography”, PEN reported, despite M4L’s claims to the contrary.
For example, M4L has sought to ban a book about police brutality against 1960s civil rights demonstrators because it had a “negative view of firemen and police.” The group wanted to ban a book about the church’s persecution of 17th-century astronomer Galileo Galilei, writing, “Where is the HERO of the church?” The group also opposed a picture book about seahorses because it contained a “discussion of the male carrying the eggs.”