Viral Broward school book disposal video called a ‘false representation’

A video went viral Monday suggesting gigantic boxes of books were being discarded from a Broward school as part of a state effort to ban books.

But the scenario presented by three employees at McNicol Middle in Hollywood is false, said district spokesman John Sullivan. The books were being discarded because they were old, and this was a normal process of updating of materials, he said.

Allison Ronis, a computer technician at McNicol, also posted an updated video Tuesday, saying she’d been told the books are not being banned, and “they’re being removed because they’re outdated.”

The first video was posted on TikTok on Monday and then shared on Twitter, where it had received 1.7 million views by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m at my school. I want to show you something because the state just came last week and decided which books were appropriate or inappropriate,” Ronis said in the first video.

She and two security monitors showed viewers several washing machine-sized boxes on crates containing what appears to be hundreds or thousands of books. The three employees read titles of books in the boxes, including “Hate Groups,” “Black Eagles: African Americans in Aviation,” “Hispanic American, Texas and the Mexican War” and “The Double Life of Pocahontas.”

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The district posted and responded to the video online Monday night.

“This video is not accurate and is simply a false representation. The State [Department of Education] has not banned any books in Broward schools,” District spokesman John Sullivan wrote. “The school shown in the video was updating/refreshing its book inventory.”

Ronis posted an update video on TikTok on Monday night saying she was “asked kindly” to take down her post, and she agreed to put it to private. However, a copy of the video had already been posted on Twitter by another user and remained up and widely shared.

Ronis, reached Tuesday by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, said she had been advised by her union “not to talk to the news.”

In an email to the Sun Sentinel, Sullivan said it’s “the national standard that school library specialists review and ‘weed’ books from their collections to ensure the material is current and up-to-date – and reflect the interests of the student body, which is determined by book circulation.”

“The books at McNicol Middle School were removed because the vast majority (89%) were more than 15 years old,” and out of compliance with a district settlement designed to ensure equitable resources to schools that serve poor and minority students.

The average date of publication for books within its collection was 1997, Sullivan said.

The issue of removing books from schools that some find offensive has become a major culture war issue in Florida. The state has passed several laws that make it easy for people to identify books in school libraries and file challenges against them. So far, Broward has instructed four books to be removed, three sexually explicit graphic novels, and a children’s book about a gay rabbit.

“Due to the current climate in education across the nation surrounding library media practices, we understand how those not familiar with the weeding of books from school collections may confuse this process,” Sullivan said. “We hope this clarifies.”

Sullivan said the employees may face discipline for the video but didn’t specify what it might be.