Libs of Tik Tok complaint behind books’ removal in Cobb schools

a stack of burning books

By Rebecca Gaunt

Libs of Tik Tok took credit Thursday for Cobb County School District removing two books from multiple school libraries.

Libs of Tik Tok has a history of complaints being lodged against it for targeting individuals for harassment, including doctors and educators. It frequently posts anti-LGBTQ+ content.

The email shared by Libs of Tik Tok is dated Aug. 19. The announcement that the district had removed the books went out Aug. 21. 

The district initially declined to name the books and still has not answered questions regarding the source of the complaint.

Read more about the book removal here.

“Flamer” by Mike Curato and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” were both removed for what the district referred to as “highly inappropriate, sexually explicit content.” Both books made the American Library Association’s most frequently contested book list in 2022.

In the wake of Senate Bill 226 regarding material deemed harmful to minors, the district approved a policy for parents to make a complaint about school materials.

It requires the complainant to be a parent or guardian. They must submit the complaint in writing to the principal, who has seven business days to respond.

Read the policy in full here.

In an article of the Libs of Tik Tok website, which was shared on the group’s X account (formerly Twitter), the group states it asked the district for comment on “why they were offering pornographic themed books to their students.” In the email to multiple district staff members, including Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, the group names those two books, calling them “innapropriate [sic].” 

Libs of Tik Tok posted a response email dated Aug. 21 from John Floresta, the chief strategy and accountability officer for Cobb schools.

Thank you for alerting us to these books. Frankly, we weren’t aware of the sexually-explicit content in these books until your email. Any book, video or lesson which contains sexually-explicit content is entirely unacceptable and have no place in our schools, period. Over the weekend we have removed both books from all of our schools.

At the direction of our Board and Superintendent, we are unapologetically holding our staff accountable to only use content which is aligned to Georgia standards, our Board’s policies and the Law.

Thank you again for bringing this to our attention, you have made our schools better for our students.

Screenshot of message posted by Libs of Tik Tok

Jeff Hubbard, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, posted on the CCAE-GAE Facebook page Wednesday expressing his concern about the removal of the books and possible links to another right wing group:

While researching the books that have been pulled ( Flamer and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl) and are now being pulled (This Book Is Gay & all Colleen Hoover books), I quickly found the one common link: Moms For Liberty

Moms For Liberty have successfully had these books pulled from multiple systems across the country due to their announced stance against LGBTQ+ individual rights, amongst many other conservative efforts to limit or end instruction on topics they see as aganist [sic] their belief system as an organization.

“Should a book be challenged in either Cobb or Marietta, it is the FIRM position of CCAE that all Board policies and administrative rules processes MUST be followed in entirety to ensure fairness and transparency to all stakeholders. In addition, CCAE also believes that a challenge to any book must first start at the school level and not immediately be taken to the system level. Not following the adopted rules and processes is a violation of Board policy and ethical guidelines for those conducting the investigations and is an affront to all stakeholders.

That being said, if the policies and rules are fully and correctly followed, for each individual book to receive a fair and impartial review conducted by each system’s Media Committee and it is found that said book permissions for students need to be changed, etc., so be it.

This issue is about ensuring that materials are fairly and accurately evaluated, our wonderfully diverse student bodies throughout the systems have the opportunity to read and learn about issues that affect them directly as individuals, and that employees are given fair and balanced opportunities to explain the processes of how books are reviewed for purchase and implemented into our classrooms and media centers for the benefit of our students.

The district has not yet responded to the Courier’s request for comment.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.