Clay County parent responsible for more than one-third of all Florida book challenges

A single man in Clay County is responsible for more than a third of the total book challenges filed in Florida schools over the past year.


Action News Jax viewers are probably somewhat familiar with Bruce Friedman.

He’s appeared in our stories in the past.

Most notably when his mic was cut off while reading an explicit passage from a book during a school board meeting.

According to a new report from the Florida Department of Education, with 489 book challenges last year, Clay County fielded 40% of the 1,218 book challenges filed statewide.

Virtually all of the challenges in Clay came from Friedman.

“When you want something done and the administration and the school board and all the other entities won’t get it done, then it’s your job,” said Friedman.

Friedman has challenged hundreds of titles and 177, or roughly half of those challenges, have resulted in books being removed from the shelves.

“They’re all porn. These books were floating on the shelves, and nobody cared. Well, I care, and I’ve proven it and now they’re gone,” said Friedman.

Roger Dailey, Chief Academic Officer of Clay County Schools is responsible for vetting those hundreds of book challenges.

He told Action News Jax he received about fifty new challenges from Friedman Wednesday morning.

“Some of the challenges that have been brought forward, actually had merit,” said Dailey.

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But Dailey noted that’s not always the case.

He said Friedman has brought challenges based on state laws limiting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as racial issues, which don’t extend to library shelves.

Then there are challenges like the one Friedman filed against the book Arthur’s Birthday, which contained a scene with the game Spin the Bottle.

“The challenges have been indiscriminate in nature and very difficult to predict. So, in order for us to divide sort of a strategy that would bring a satisfactory solution in the mind of our complainant, that’s been a challenge,” said Dailey.

Friedman acknowledged some of his challenges, like the Arthur book, aren’t likely to succeed.

“If I had a babysitter that I came home to and she was teaching my kid how to play spin the bottle, she’s fired. So, do I have a right to challenge that book?” said Friedman. “I have a right to challenge any book for any reason.”

Stephana Ferrell with the Florida Freedom to Read Project said under state law, Friedman is right on that last point.

But she argued that’s the problem.

“We’ve created this process to allow one person to go about these challenges without putting guardrails in place,” said Ferrell.

She argued a handful of individuals like Friedman are exerting an outsized influence on the books available to all students in the state.

“The way to make this work better is to actually create a law that upholds parental rights,” said Ferrell. “You enroll your student at the school. You initially agree all resources should be available to my student until I tell you otherwise.”

In Clay County that is an option available to parents, who can opt their child out of having access to the library.

To date, only six parents have done so.

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