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673 Books Removed From Orange County Classrooms to Comply With Florida Laws

“This is yet another disastrous consequence of Florida’s disastrous education policies,” one free speech advocate said.

Orange County school district pulled 673 books from classrooms this year in fear of violating Florida’s far right laws banning materials that supposedly include “sexual conduct” from schools, according to analysis by the Florida Freedom to Read Project.

These laws, HB 1069 and HB 1467, require media specialists, or teachers with library training, to review and approve books in classrooms and libraries and restrict LGBTQ content and material on reproductive health.

“This is yet another disastrous consequence of Florida’s disastrous education policies,” Kasey Meehan, director of PEN America’s Freedom to Read project, said in a statement. “Hundreds of books have now been removed from Orange County shelves under HB 1069, and we continue to be alarmed by the magnitude and scale of censorship following the implementation of this law.”

The books removed from classroom shelves include classics like “Beloved,” “The Color Purple,” and “Madame Bovary.”

“It’s creating this culture of fear within our media specialists and even teachers who just want to have a library in their classrooms, so kids have access,” former teacher Castor Dentel told the Orlando Sentinel.

The 673 books were removed from teacher’s classrooms, not school libraries. The district has not yet said how many books were removed from libraries and classrooms in total to comply with the new laws.

According to a recent PEN America report, book bans increased across the country by 33 percent in the 2022-2023 school year, with 40 percent of all book bans occurring in Florida. PEN America found that nearly half of all school districts in the state had book bans and that 1,406 books were banned in total.

“We see Florida as almost setting the map for where other states could go and certainly we hope that efforts to oppose book bans in Florida will also help us in how we think about pushing back against book bans before they ramp up to this scale in other states,” Meehan told the Nebraska Examiner in October.

In May, PEN America sued the Escambia County School District, asserting that the school district’s removal of books due to their portrayal of race or LGBTQ identity violated the First Amendment.

“The targeted book removals we are seeing in Escambia County are blatantly unconstitutional attempts to silence and stigmatize,” Nadine Farid Johnson, managing director of PEN America Washington and Free Expression Programs, said in a statement. “The government should not foster censorship by proxy, allowing one person to decide what ideas are out of bounds for all.”

In July, Charlotte County Superintendent Mark Vianello ordered district libraries to remove all LGBTQ books and teaching materials in order to comply with the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws. When asked whether students could bring personal books with LGBTQ themes into the classroom, Vianello said,“These characters and themes cannot exist.”

“Removing all representation of LGBTQ+ people in literature goes against our very principles of living in a free and just, pluralistic society,” the Florida Freedom to Read Project said in a statement.

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