T:The recent surge in book bans in the United States, fueled by political debate over race, gender and sexuality, has not even spared a poem read at President Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration.
Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school in Miami-Dade County, Florida, has pulled Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” from the elementary school shelves after a parent filed a complaint saying it was “not educational.” and contains “implicit hate messages”. The move, however, still allows middle schoolers access to the book.
“I’m gutted,” Gorman, 25, said in a released statement on social networks Tuesday, explaining that “depriving children of the opportunity to find their voice in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.”
It’s the latest in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ongoing crusade to reform the state’s public education system while making it easier to target books and educational materials that discuss race, gender, sexuality and diversity. Martin DeSantis denied the books were banned, but the free-speech group PEN America claims at least 375 books were banned between July and December 2022.
“Banning books is nothing new,” Gorman said in a statement. “But they are growing. according to the ALA, 40% more books were challenged in 2022 than in 2021. Moreover, it often only takes one objection to remove these works from our libraries and schools.”
“What can we do? We have to speak up and make our voices heard,” he added.
The Freedom to Read Project, a parent-founded organization in Florida, filed a complaint that was reportedly filed with Miami in March. Herald— which first reported the story. Official objections have also been filed against the titles of four other books: A Primer of Black History, Cuban Children, Countries in the News: Cuba” and “To Sir Langston”.
Complainant Daley Salinas, the mother of two Bob Graham students, challenged the books for critical race theory, gender ideology, “implicit messages of hate” and “indoctrination,” records show. Salinas said Herald he is “not in favor of eliminating or censoring books” but calls for their content to be relevant.
Read more: A new report shows that book bans have reached an all-time high
The Bob Graham School Materials Review Committee met on April 5 to discuss the books. According to records released by Florida’s Freedom to Read Project, each book was checked. Four of the five titles, including Gorman’s The Hill We Climb, were deemed by the panel to be more appropriate for middle school students, while Countries in the News: Cuba” will remain in the information section.
A large number of book challenges
Similar restrictions are happening across the state. Tampa Bay Times reports that acclaimed American novelist Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye returned to Pinellas County high school libraries in April after being banned in January. A parent filed a complaint with the school superintendent because of the rape episode in the book.
In February, the Martin County School District removed 80 books from its libraries for sexual and racial content, TCPalm reported. And last week, Penguin Random House—Gorman’s publisher, along with PEN America and other authors—filed a federal lawsuit against the Escambia County School District to remove and limit access to 10 other library books related to race or sexual identity.
Read more: The radical new tactic in the crusade to ban books
A PEN America tracker shows that outside of Florida, book bans were most common in Texas, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina this school year. Biden himself has spoken out against a ban on rioting in many Republican states, even saying in a video announcing his 2024 presidential bid that “MAGA extremists” threaten “foundational liberties.”
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