(NEW YORK) – PEN America called Florida’s proposed bill HB 1069, introduced by Rep. Stanley McClain, “yet another extension of harmful and censorious attempts to remove books from school and classroom library shelves across Florida.”

HB 1069 broadens district school board oversight to include responsibility for materials available in classroom libraries, going beyond their current oversight of school libraries and instructional materials. The bill also expands Florida’s existing mechanisms for challenging books. The bill provides that content that “depicts or describes sexual conduct” is a valid reason for challenge. And HB 1069 mandates that all challenged books be removed from shelves immediately pending review – that is, they would be banned as soon as they were challenged. This requirement violates procedural best practices from the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the American Library Association (ALA), which state that a book should remain in circulation while undergoing a reconsideration process.

School districts across Florida are already banning books in response to challenges from individual citizens or small groups. Long lists of challenged books often pressure school boards or districts to bypass best practice due to constraints on school personnel to convene and participate in formal review committees.

“This is an alarming piece of legislation that would make it possible for a single parent in a district to enact a ban on any book simply by challenging it, codifying what amounts to a heckler’s veto over books. It also ramps up already extreme efforts in Florida to target any books that might touch on issues of sex, sexuality, or gender,” said Kasey Meehan, program director, Freedom to Read, at PEN America. Meehan continues, “If enacted, this legislation will pave the way for an even broader swath of books to be banned in Florida, where the freedom to read and learn is already under grave assault.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057