Filed Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

PEN America, Penguin Random House, and a diverse group of authors joined with parents and students in Escambia County, Florida, to file a federal lawsuit challenging removals and restrictions of books from school libraries that violate their rights to free speech and equal protection under the law.

This lawsuit brings together authors whose books have been removed or restricted and parents and students in the district who cannot access the books, in a first of its kind challenge to unlawful censorship.

Ensuring that students have access to books on a wide range of topics and that express a diversity of viewpoints is a core function of public education — preparing students to be thoughtful and engaged citizens.

The lawsuit says the Escambia County School District and School Board violated the First Amendment rights of the students, authors, and publishers by removing books “based on ideological objections to their contents or disagreement with their messages or themes.”

Per the lawsuit, the district also violated the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution “because the books being singled out for possible removal are disproportionately books by non-white and/or LGBTQ authors, or which address topics related to race or LGBTQ identity.”

Florida has one of the highest rates of book removals and restrictions in the country, as researched by PEN America and documented in its Index of School Book Bans.

Read the entire complaint >>

Read the press release >>


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