Florida schools remove hundreds of challenged books

Florida schools are required to have a policy to remove books if anyone files a formal complaint
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 5:33 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 5:51 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCJB/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) - Hundreds of books were removed from school library shelves across Florida during the last school year.

The Florida Department of Education released the list of books that were removed after being challenged as part of the expanded Parental Rights in Education Act.

The list published by the Department shows that 1,217 books were formally challenged and 386 were removed.

“Healthy debate should be encouraged,” Stephana Ferrell said.

Florida schools are required to have a policy to remove books if anyone files a formal complaint. Manatee County Schools removed 25 of the 43 books challenged last school year.

The district wouldn’t answer questions, but instead sent the Gray Florida Capital Bureau a statement quoting the law and a link to the policy.

It states principals or committees are responsible for reviewing the material and sharing the decision with the curriculum director. The material can be checked out during the review with parent permission.

Ferrell, the Florida Freedom to Read Project’s Director of Research and insight, said schools are doing their own review, which isn’t included on the list.

“There are districts that think they are going to get ahead of things by looking at what’s getting challenged in other districts and what’s appearing on these lists and just removing them,” Ferrell said.

Many of those books, like “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Julian is a Mermaid,” have LGBTQ themes or characters.

Supporters of the Parental Rights in Education Act told lawmakers during the last session they didn’t think these books belonged in schools.

“When it comes to issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity, these decisions should be left at home for parents to decide when and if their child should be exposed to this material. It should not be up to teachers or schools,” one supporter said.

“Most parents believe that children should have access to books that represent their entire communities, represent their families,” Ferrell said.

Districts in 21 counties removed challenged books during the last school year.

The American Library Association said there were more than 2,500 unique titles targeted in challenges across the country last year. More than half were in school libraries.

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