As we recently reported, The Escambia County School District School Board currently has over 1,600 books off their book shelves and on a “challenged list” waiting review. While the books are going through the “review process”, they are removed from classrooms and circulation.
District spokesperson Cody Strother told the Pensacola News Journal that the books, “have not been banned or removed from the school district; rather, they have simply been pulled for further review to ensure compliance with the new legislation.”
As of mid-January, less than 100 of the books on the “challenged list” have gone through the review process.
In response to the mass book removal, PEN America, Penguin Random House, parents, students, as well as several authors, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the removal and restrictions on these books.
They lawsuit puts forth that the removal of books from school libraries violates rights to free speech and equal protection under the law, “The Escambia County School District and School Board violated the First Amendment rights of the students, authors, and publishers by removing books based on ideological objections to their contents or disagreement with their messages or themes.”
They are asking that the district’s actions are declared unconstitutional and the banned books are returned to library shelves. The school board filed to dismiss the lawsuit.
Federal Judge rules lawsuit can move forward
In January 2024, Judge T. Kent Wetherell of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida heard arguments on the school district’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Wetherell said PEN America had standing for the lawsuit to move forward under the First Amendment, which now sets the stage for the next steps of the legal fight.
Ballard Spahr attorney, Lynn Oberlander, who is representing the plaintiffs shared in a statement, “We are gratified that the Judge recognized that books cannot be removed from school library shelves simply because of the views they espouse. We are looking forward to moving forward with this case to protect the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs.”
Whereas, Lawyers for the school board warn that this suit could put school officials on a “collision course” with a recently enacted (July 2023) Florida Law, HB 1069. That legislature gives school boards full authority process to make final decides on any disagreements over, “the content of all instructional materials and any other materials used in a classroom, made available in a school or classroom library, or included on a reading list.”
It’s worth noting that in rejecting the motion to dismiss, Judge Wetherell pointed out that the school board has not followed its own policies when it restricted access to all books “under review”.
According to the school board’s own policy, only books that have been challenged as “pornographic” are allowed to be removed. He concluded that all the other books should still be accessible during the review process. It is not known at this time if access to these materials has been granted again.
Any educator using materials deemed “banned” by the process, can be charged with a third-degree felony, a $5,000 fine and face up to five years in jail.
Restricted and Removed books include;
Merriam-Webster’s Elementary Dictionary
Push, by Sapphire
Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem’s casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as she learns not only how to write about her life, but how to make it truly her own for the first time.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, By Alex Haley
With its first great victory in the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the civil rights movement gained the powerful momentum it needed to sweep forward into its crucial decade, the 1960s. As voices of protest and change rose above the din of history and false promises, one voice sounded more urgently, more passionately, than the rest. Malcolm X—once called the most dangerous man in America—challenged the world to listen and learn the truth as he experienced it. And his enduring message is as relevant today as when he first delivered it.
State of Fear, by Michael Crichton
In Tokyo, in Los Angeles, in Antarctica, in the Solomon Islands . . . an intelligence agent races to put all the pieces together to prevent a global catastrophe.
The Gunslinger, by Steven King
The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.
The Lost Symbol, By Dan Brown
Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object–artfully encoded with five symbols–is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation… one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.
Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A new era begins for the Black Panther! MacArthur Genius and National Book Award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) takes the helm, confronting T’Challa with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before. When a superhuman terrorist group calling itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the land famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions will be thrown into turmoil. As suicide bombers terrorize the population, T’Challa struggles to unite his citizens, and a familiar villain steps out of the shadows. If Wakanda is to survive, it must adapt — but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change? Heavy lies the head that wears the cowl!
An avid book reader and proud library card holder, Angela is new to the world of e-Readers. She has a background in education, emergency response, fitness, loves to be in nature, travelling and exploring. With an honours science degree in anthropology, Angela also studied writing after graduation. She has contributed work to The London Free Press, The Gazette, The Londoner, Best Version Media, Lifeliner, and Citymedia.ca.