Florida School Board Member Files Criminal Complaint Over Sexually Graphic Book

By Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Reporter
Patricia Tolson is an award-winning political columnist and investigative reporter who has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo! U.S. News and The Tampa Free Press. Her focus is covering political events and developments throughout the southeastern United States, which may have an impact on the nation as a whole.
November 16, 2021 Updated: November 16, 2021

A Florida school board member has filed a criminal complaint regarding a “disgusting,” sexually graphic book—found to exist in the media centers at three schools in Flagler County—which she believes violates state obscenity laws.

Flagler County School Board Member Jill Woolbright said she became aware of the book after seeing a video by a parent who read from the book at a school board meeting in Pennsylvania, “and it was disgusting.” The video bears a “GRAPHIC WARNING.”

According to a recent report, the book by George Johnson—”All Boys Aren’t Blue”—has already been removed from libraries in eight states. The North Kansas City school district pulled four of Johnson’s books from four high schools earlier this month following complaints from parents. On Nov. 8, Spotsylvania County Public School Board Members unanimously voted to have multiple “sexually explicit” books, including Johnson’s, removed from their libraries after concerned parents discovered the books were in the schools through a library app. Johnson himself begins his memoir with a content warning.

Woolbright discovered there were copies of the book in the media centers of three Flagler County schools, two copies at Flagler Palm Coast High School, one copy at Matanzas High School, and one copy at Buddy Taylor Middle School.

“In our county, we only have two high schools and two middle schools, and thankfully there were none in the elementary schools,” Woolbright said.

Now concerned, Woolbright conducted an internet search for the book and looked to see if the public library had a copy.

“Lo and behold,” Woolbright said. “They did.” After checking the book out of the library, Woolbright said she looked at the table of contents and saw two specific chapters that caught her eye. The first is Chapter 11, titled, “Boys Will be Boys.” She was appalled to find that the entire 15-page chapter—“not a paragraph, not a blurb, but a whole chapter described graphically this incestual encounter with a teenage cousin that came to his bed at night.”

Picture of first page of Chapter 15 -- "Losing My Virginity Twice" -- from the book by George M. Johnson. Nov. 14, 2021.
A photo of the first page of Chapter 15—”Losing My Virginity Twice”—from the book by George Johnson on Nov. 14, 2021. (Jessico Bowman)

In Chapter 15—”Losing My Virginity Twice”Jonson provides an extremely graphic recount of a sexual encounter he had with another man as an adult, giving readers detailed, step-by-step descriptions on how to perform numerous sexual acts.

“So I had enough information for me to know that this is not appropriate for any minor,” Woolbright said.

She then began researching policy regarding the selection of textbooks in Flagler County. While there are some guidelines regarding textbooks, she found nothing regarding media center books that would be available to students through the school library.

“So I sent an email off to county office with a lot of questions asking about a handbook asking about our policy and procedures on how we decide what media center books go into effect,” Woolbright said. The response she received said “it was a question that probably all the school board members would be interested in” and she should bring it up at a workshop.

Woolbright also searched state statutes, finding that Florida State Statute 01006 says it is the responsibility of the school board not only to provide oversight on all instructional materials used in a classroom but for books that wound up in the school libraries as well.

Woolbright also read Florida’s criminal statute regarding “any person who knowingly sells, lends, gives away, distributes, transmits, shows, or transmutes” or knowingly has in their possession for viewing any lewd or obscene materials to minors—including books—is guilty of a felony of the third degree.

Now “extremely upset,” Woolbright raised questions at a school board workshop regarding how they vet books and how they decide which books will be banned and if there are any banned books so far with county schools and policies and procedures. According to Woolbright, that was when Curriculum Director LaShakia Moore admitted they don’t even have any policies regarding books in the media centers and that they planned on getting together with the media center specialists in the county and start preparing. Woolbright asked to schedule a workshop to get started on that. While three out of the five board members voted for the workshop two said they don’t believe in any form of censorship and that they believe anything should be available to the children.

“So I’m like, OK. So at least I got a workshop,” Woolbright said.

Next, Woolbright called others to join her at her weekly three o’clock appointment with the superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt to share what she had learned. She called Curriculum Director LaShakia Moore, Assistant Superintendent Bobby Bossardet, Kristy Gavin the school board attorney, and the superintendent secretary. Only Gavin bothered to show up.

“So I played the video that I saw,” Woolbright said, admitting that she left the room because she didn’t want to hear it again. When the video was over they opened the door.

“They were visibly disturbed,” Woolbright said, “so we sat and talked for a long time. I said that under no uncertain terms I wanted whoever was responsible for placing those books in our schools to be held accountable and that I wanted them removed.

“The school board never approved this book getting into the schools that I’m aware of,” Woolbright insisted. “I believe that it was a crime and that it was a felony and I was assured they would take care of it.

However, while the title of the book has disappeared from the district’s catalog and two of the four books have been “removed from circulation,” she was told that the other two books—which had been checked out by students—“were still at large.”

“I had given them a week to act on it,” Woolbright said.

Unwilling to wait any longer, Woolbright contacted the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department and filed a criminal report, including a five-page witness statement.

During the course of investigating this story, The Epoch Times became aware of posts on the author’s Twitter page that appeared to be threatening Woolbright.

Screen capture of Twitter post from Keka dated Nov. 15, 2021
Screen capture of Twitter post from Keka Araujo dated Nov. 15, 2021 (Patricia Tolson/The Epoch Times)

“So now [a] Group of rednecks in Palm and Flagler Counties are insinuating that @IamGMJohnson is inciting violence,” Keka Araujo posted on Nov. 15. “Here’s the problem with that… This Black man was minding HIS BUSINESS and here comes racist Jill and her minions disrupting his peace.”

Johnson asked Araujo to “finish her!” in a reply.

While Araujo claims the threatening post was on “A PRIVATE GROUP ON FACEBOOK,” the comments actually appear on both of their very public Twitter pages. It is against the law (pdf) in Florida to threaten anyone through social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

“It should go without saying that harassment, assault, and credible threats of violence are all crimes in the state of Florida, regardless of political motivation,” Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw told The Epoch Times. “Several Florida school board members, including Democrats and Republicans, have reported receiving threats and harassment from activists on both ends of the political spectrum. This is wrong, and anyone who is a victim of a crime should report it to their local police department.”

Screenshots of the potentially threatening posts and information on the social media accounts were sent to the sheriff’s department.

The deputy was also informed that several people, including a Flagler County student named Jack Petocz, are “organizing a student-led protest” to take place at the Jan. 16 school board meeting. According to Petocz’s Twitter post, he is accepting donations of Johnson’s book which he plans to distribute at the meeting.

Screen capture of Twitter post about protest being organized by Flagler County student Jack Petocz to distribute copies of Johnson's book from Nov. 13, 2021
Screen capture of Twitter post about protest being organized by Flagler County student Jack Petocz to distribute copies of Johnson’s book from Nov. 13, 2021 (Jessico Bowman)

“Here’s the thing, as soon as one of them passes one to a kid, that’s federal law,” Woolbright said. “Giving that book to children under 16, that’s federal law.”

“Florida law enforcement is perfectly capable of responding to crimes in Florida,” Pushaw said, “and we are confident that the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office will be able to investigate and respond appropriately.”

Monica, a parent in Flagler County, has also filed a report with the sheriff’s department.

“I found out there were books in the library that were completely inappropriate, particularly this one called All Boys Aren’t Blue,” Monica told The Epoch Times under the condition of anonymity. “So I actually bought the book. I had seen excerpts from it and how inapproriate they were but I wanted to see for myself, not just the excerpts themselves but what came before and after them. It’s really inappropriate. It’s shocking that this book would be in a school library and it’s actually against Florida law that this is available to children without parental consent.”

Monica filed her report with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department on Nov. 15. Monica said the name of the deputy who took the report, which appears on the report itself, is “A. Pierre.”

“He wasn’t happy about it,” Monica said. “He told me I couldn’t file the report. That I had to go to the school’s resource officer because it’s an internal matter.”

Monica told the deputy that because she feels it’s a violation of Florida’s obscenity laws, it’s a legal matter and her responsibility to file the report.

Monica also told the deputy that people planned of distributing copies of the offensive book at the Nov. 16 school board meeting. “That’s also against the law, distributing sexual content to minor children,” she told him.

“Parents have the right to object to their children being exposed to explicit content like this, because parents have the right to make education decisions for their own kids,” Pushaw told The Epoch Times. “The special session this week will strengthen protections for parents’ rights and empower parents of public school students in Florida.

“It’s noteworthy that the Department of Justice (DOJ) memo was issued in response to the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) letter to President Biden on September 29, in which the organization explicitly blamed opponents of critical race theory and forced masking mandates,” Pushaw said further. “The framing of the NSBA letter suggests that parents who criticize radical left-wing indoctrination or oppose the unscientific policy of muzzling schoolchildren are uniquely dangerous. The letter ignores the fact that liberal activists who support CRT and forced masking have been disrupting school board meetings, harassing elected officials they disagree with, and threatening conservative school board members.

However, Pushaw said the DOJ memo “conveniently ignores the conservative school board members and parents who have experienced harassment and threats from the left.”

“This shameful double standard has been established for some time,” Pushaw noted. “Violent left-wing protests are acceptable to liberals, but parents who protest the progressive agenda are smeared as potential ‘domestic terrorists’ who must be intimidated into silence.”

Johnson responded to The Epoch Times, saying: “What exactly do people think the journalist Keke Araujo is going to do? She is a writer. We ‘finish’ people with our words. Anyone with reading comprehension can see the tweet I responded to wasn’t threatening. Keke said she was going to write about her and I told her to do it. So it’s just another attempt to throw rocks (like filing a criminal complaint against my book against her own board policy) and then trying to hide your hands when the folks you attack respond. I’ve explained several times why this book is appropriate for teens. Teens will experience many of the same things I did. My book is not what harms them. Pretending they aren’t already experiencing these things in the real world and then removing resources that can help them is what harms them.”

Despite Florida’s obscenity laws, Johnson said “Woolbright’s effort is wrong because she solely has no right to deny teens and other parents who want the book the right to access it. Period.”

When asked if he had reviewed Florida’s obscenity laws, Johnson said “I have as well as my attorneys,” and that his lawyers disagree that the book would be in violation.

The Epoch Times reached also out to Flagler County Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt for comment. She did not respond.

The Epoch Times will be covering developments at the Jan. 16 Flagler County School Board meeting.

Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson is an award-winning political columnist and investigative reporter who has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo! U.S. News and The Tampa Free Press. Her focus is covering political events and developments throughout the southeastern United States, which may have an impact on the nation as a whole.