Florida county removes all books with LGBTQ+ characters from schools

A person holds a sign in a crowd that reads "only bigots ban books! Only racists ban history!"

A county in Florida has come under fire for seemingly ordering all public schools to remove books that include LGBTQ+ characters.

Guidance from a district in Charlotte County instructed schools across the region to remove books containing LGBTQ+ themes, or considered to be “how-to manuals for how to be an LGBTQ+ person”, from school libraries.

This is despite the fact that state official recently insisted that “Florida does not ban books”.

The county’s school district superintendent, Mark Vianello, said that pre-K-12 schools (those between kindergarten and 12th grade) should no longer stock LGBTQ+ books, following a request for guidance by librarians.

The request was made in July, after the revision of a state bill in May which expanded the censorship of LGBTQ+ books in Florida to pre-K-12 student groups.

Republican state governor Ron DeSantis had previously advocated for LGBTQ+ book bans, in the wake of the passing of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law.

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‘These characters and themes cannot exist’

The Florida Freedom to Read Project obtained the guidance in a public records request which found Vianello had told librarians to remove books “if a character has, for example, two mothers”.

Another section of the request asks whether teachers must extend these bans to books students use for reports or “silent sustained reading in class,” even if the books are “student-selected”.

Vianello responded: “These characters and themes cannot exist.”

An article by independent journalism outlet Popular Information said the school district claimed that LGBTQ+ books were only removed from K-8 libraries (those used by pupils up to 8th grade).

However, Popular Information said it had obtained logs of the books removed from high school libraries and that several of those with LGBTQ+ characters, including Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, had been removed from shelves.

Popular Information journalist Judd Legum wrote that a spokesperson for the school district said the were removed because “elementary schools utilise their school library media centre as classrooms… [for] elective courses… on a regular basis”.

In a thread on X, formerly Twitter, the Florida Freedom to Read Project expressed frustration at the Florida Department of Education’s (FLDoE) “negligence” in providing clarity on what is permitted under the new law.

“When will FLDoE step up and provide the guidance our districts obviously need to serve all our students?” they asked.

After publishing the full guidance response on 5 September, the Project contacted the department of education, requesting guidance to stop schools from taking the wrong action in the face of vague laws. They reportedly heard nothing back.

“The FLDoE ignores concerns of real public-school parents because they cannot acknowledge dissent from their narrative,” it wrote.

“We cannot possibly exist. We are parents with an agenda – an agenda to uphold the promise of equal access to uniform, safe, high-quality public education.”

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