St. Johns County Schools Upholds Book’s Place in Curriculum

In a recent St. Johns County Schools meeting, a portion of the discussion centered on an objection to the book “The Great Cow Race” by Jeff Smith, which had been raised by a parent concerned about its appropriateness for first-grade students. The committee ultimately deemed the book suitable for grades prek and up, despite the concerns expressed.

Ashley Hamlin, a parent, initiated the debate with an objection to “The Great Cow Race,” citing its references to killing and torture and detailing an incident where her son used a term learned from the book that she found concerning. Hamlin’s contention was that the book’s content was not suitable for young children and advocated for its removal from first-grade classrooms.

The committee members engaged in a thorough discussion, using the school library media material evaluation checklist to navigate their decision-making process. They examined the maturity level of first-grade students and the impact that the book’s themes could have on them. The debate brought to the forefront the challenges inherent in selecting appropriate library materials for different age groups and the necessary balance between providing educational resources and addressing parental concerns.

During the meeting, the committee also scrutinized the guidelines for evaluating classroom and library materials more broadly. They addressed various criteria for potential objections to materials, such as suitability to student needs, depiction of sexual conduct, or violations of Florida statute. The committee voted on each of these points, determining that the content in question was neither pornographic nor prohibited by state law. The comparison of the book’s language with that found in other children’s literature was also noted, providing additional context for the committee’s considerations.


In the end, the committee recommended that “The Great Cow Race” was appropriate for students in prekindergarten and higher, effectively deciding to keep the book accessible within the school district’s libraries and classrooms. This decision underscored the complexities involved in evaluating educational materials and the School Board’s role in navigating between educational priorities and parental concerns.

The process highlighted the thoroughness with which the School Board approaches such objections. The meeting concluded with instructions for committee members to acknowledge their participation and return the materials and notes from the meeting.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Tim Forson
School Board Officials:
Beverly Slough, Anthony E. Coleman Sr., Jennifer Collins, Kelly Barrera, Patrick Canan, Sarah Wilcox (Executive Secretary/Bookkeeper), Frank D. Upchurch, III (School Board Attorney)

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