Florida official claims state ‘does not ban books’. That isn’t true

A young person reads a book in a school library like setting

A Florida official has claimed the that the state doesn’t ban books, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

A recent report from the Florida Department of Education (DoE) revealed that about 300 books have been removed from schools since last year, with many titles drawing on LGBTQ+ themes or incorporating queer characters, including works by Juno Dawson, Maia Kobabe and Gabby Rivera.

Twenty-one of Florida’s 67 counties banned books last year. Five removed more than 10 titles, with Clay County taking 177 from its school library shelves following 489 objections – 94 per cent of which reportedly came from no more than one individual each time.

Despite this, Florida DoE spokeswoman Caily Myers told NBC News that “Florida does not ban books”, maintaining that the list of works no longer on shelves “comprises information provided by each school district of the books they removed based on objections from a parent or resident of the county, using their district’s process”.

The books were removed in accordance with Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act – better known as the Don’t Say Gay – and Florida House Bill 1467, a policy introduced by Republican governor Ron DeSantis in 2022 that, as per his website states, “requires school districts to be transparent in the selection of instructional materials, including library and reading materials.”

When the act became law, DeSantis said: “In Florida, our parents have every right to be involved in their child’s education.

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“We are not going to let politicians deny parents the right to know what is being taught in our schools. I’m proud to sign this legislation that ensures curriculum transparency.” He added that the books students read need “proper vetting”.

Don’t Say Gay was expanded in March, to prohibit instruction on gender and sexuality up until the eighth grade, and on reproductive health until 12th grade.

The legislation similarly limits material that “contain[s] pornography or obscene depictions of sexual conduct”, which prompted Hillsborough County to announce that its schools would now only teach excerpts from some of Shakespeare’s most famous works, including Macbeth, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

Tanya Arja, a spokeswoman for the school district, told the Tampa Bay Times that the change had been made because of new state teaching standards, referring to DeSantis’ expanded legislation.

In March, graphic novel series Heartstopper was added to the list of LGBTQ+ books banned in certain parts of the US, a move author Alice Oseman described as thinly veiled homophobia.

“Racism, homophobia and transphobia are thriving under the guise of ‘concern for children’,” she said. “This is not just a US issue, we’re seeing the exact same ‘concern’ in the UK.”