Florida Book Bans Are No Hoax: Here Are The Facts
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis set out Wednesday to “expose the book ban hoax,” claiming that only “pornographic and inappropriate” materials have been removed from Florida classrooms. His claims are false.
Books are being removed from Florida classrooms and libraries because they are “pornographic, violent or inappropriate.”
- Biographies of Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente that Duval County admitted to removing from shelves for nearly a year, along with 177 other books from a collection of diverse books.
- And Tango Makes Three, a picture book about two male penguins raising a chick.
- Stella Brings the Family, a picture book about a girl with two dads.
- When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball, pulled from open shelves temporarily after one person complained about it.
- Forever, by Judy Blume
- Booker Prize winner The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
- All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson
- The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
- Dozens of books that include LGBTQ+ themes, protagonists of color, or that touch on race or racism.
The most books banned in any district in Florida in 2023 is 19 books, in Duval And St. Johns counties. The total across the state is 175 books removed.
In 2023, to comply with new laws, some Florida schools were directed to empty libraries and cover classroom bookshelves. Teachers in Manatee County and Duval County were told they had to have each book in their classrooms reviewed before they could go back. Martin County removed dozens of books after they were objected to by one person.
In the 2021-22 school year PEN America documented 565 books banned in Florida schools. Some were banned permanently, others temporarily pending investigations. The result is the same: Students can’t access books. You can see how we define a book ban here.
Florida has expanded African American history, including with HB7.
HB7, known as the Stop W.O.K.E. act and officially called the Individual Freedom Act, is an educational gag order. Among other things, it prevents teachers from discussing advantages or disadvantages based on race. Discussion of systemic racism is considered “critical race theory” and not allowed.
“The bill’s provisions affect the state’s students, educators, and administrators from kindergarten through college, curtailing their freedom to teach, explain, discuss, or access information on a wide range of topics–rights enshrined by the First Amendment,” said Nadine Farid Johnson, managing director of PEN America Washington and free expression programs.
Florida “has taken a stand against sexual material and pornography in the classroom.”
No one is advocating for pornography in schools. Florida laws signed by DeSantis, however, are so broad they could sweep up a wide swath of books, including classics like Romeo and Juliet and To Kill a Mockingbird. Coupled with a recent directive to “err on the side of caution,” some schools are doing just that — with disastrous results for the freedom to read.
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