TAMPA, FLORIDA — Parents rallied at the Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) board meeting today to vocalize their outrage at numerous books available to middle school students, including one that features explicit instructions on anal and oral sex, hand jobs and how to use sex apps. The county’s online library catalog shows that two copies of Juno Dawson’s This Book is Gay (2015) are available at Pierce Middle School in Tampa, as well as in two high school libraries.
“Eleven, twelve, thirteen-year-olds… can pick up a book in one of our school libraries and read about pedophilia in casual and positive light, they can read about masochistic sex, masturbation, incestuous violent rape and a handful of other things,” Julie Gebhards told the school board at a meeting last month. Gebhards pulled her three children out of HCPS after investigating the books accessible to youth in the school system.
“Following the breaking down of boundaries, [kids] become much more susceptible to a sex trafficking industry that preys on children and makes millions of dollars here in Hillsborough County.” she stated. “This is poison that will forever plague a generation.”
FROM THE PAGES OF THIS BOOK IS GAY
In the section “Boy-on-Boy Sex,” This Book is Gay includes cartoon sketches of a naked man with facial and pubic hair. The diagram has arrows pointing to the man’s penis, testicles, “bum” and nipples with guidance on best practices, noting, “Trans men may have slightly different bodies.”
In the section that details how sex apps work, Dawson writes: “It is a fact that that although grown-up adult types are sometimes looking for a serious relationship, sometimes they are just looking for a spot of sexyfuntime.” He goes on to say, “Remember, this is fine as long as you’re honest and always use a condom.”
NOT TAKING ACTION
Over the course of the past year, Gebhards and other parents have been consistently communicating with school board members regarding books with graphic sexual content. She says most responses are boilerplate answers that point to general policies.
Gebhards shared with The Florida Standard an email exchange she had with school board member Lynn Gray in December 2021, in which Gray shared that she felt Gebhards reading from the books at public meetings was inappropriate.
“Like you, I feel more screening should be done before such books are available to our children/students. This will be done,” Gray said in the email. “However, much damage has been done in terms of trauma to the audience-both young and old after listening to the verbal descriptions.”
Additionally, Gebhards says she spoke to Kenya Sutton, the media specialist at Pierce Middle School, on Friday and Sutton gave similar vague answers, but confirmed that she did choose This Book is Gay. HCPS spokesperson Erin Maloney declined to speak specifically to the individual book but did confirm with The Florida Standard that media specialists for each school are responsible for adding new books.
COMPLAINTS IN OTHER COUNTIES
On June 30, the Clay County school board muted the microphone when a father began reading explicit content from a book that could be found in the school’s library.
Meanwhile, parents in Sanibel County were outraged to find gender transitioning children’s books in the public library, Florida’s Voice reported in June. The library elected to keep the books in the children’s section.