Activists determined to malign parents concerned over inappropriate content available in school libraries ignored the forest for the trees as they zeroed in on specific titles being reviewed in the state of Florida.
Throughout 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) looked to not only tackle indoctrination in government-run schools but also to reduce exposure to age-inappropriate content for students through the Parental Rights in Education law and Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act. In order to comply with the legislation, officials from across the Sunshine State have begun reviewing their school libraries and many of the books getting pulled have been those featuring black and Hispanic figures.
With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., the nonprofit group PEN America waded into critiquing what content Floridians had available in their schools that saw titles like “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” and “Henry Aaron’s Dream” pulled from the shelves for review because of their handling of topics of racial discrimination.
Other titles flagged by the activist group included “Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa,” an unspecified title on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and “The Berenstein Bears and the Big Question” were also pulled specifically in Duval County where at least 176 books remained under review.
“While efforts to remove books have been intensifying for the past year, what’s happening now is that new laws passed last year in Florida are having a clear chilling effect on classroom teachers and librarians,” PEN America reported.
“It’s a bleak situation in parts of Florida,” PEN America’s director of Free Expression and Education programs Jonathan Friedman said. “We’ve got teachers teaching on eggshells, in classrooms with no books.”
However, while 2,800 titles have officially been approved for their school libraries while thousands more remain under scrutiny because, as Duval County officials put it, the state’s Department of Education trained “all Florida school districts to ‘err on the side of caution’ in determining if a book is developmentally appropriate for student use,” even PEN seemed to readily admit that many of the temporarily reviewed books would be returning to the libraries.
“School districts are interpreting the laws differently, but some teachers have been told they must suspend access to their classroom libraries, so each book can be vetted by a media specialist for approval first,” the nonprofit wrote.
In the meantime, without addressing what particular language was contained in the biography about his father intended for grades K-3 that had left it under review, Roberto Clemente Jr. commented to NBC News, “We need to continue to figure out how to continue that conversation and unifying our cultures and nationalities. His story is his story. He went through racism. It’s something that can’t be changed.”
Other books listed as being pulled included “My Two Dads and Me,” “The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Street” and “I am Jazz” which all discuss LGBT-etc. alphabet activism directed at younger readers.
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