Florida ranks second among states with the most book bans, a new report finds
A nonprofit notes that over the 2021–22 school year, what started as modest school-level activity to challenge and remove books in schools grew into a full-fledged social and political movement.
An advocacy group that promotes free expression reports that Florida is among the states with the most book bans.
PEN America, a nonprofit group that advocates for free expression in literature, released the report Monday, the start of Banned Books Week.
The findings are similar to those released last week by the American Library Association, which said efforts to censor books in the US are on track to surpass last year's count.
PEN America notes that Florida has book bans in 21 of the state's school districts involving 566 titles. The majority of banned books contain themes or characters involving the LGBTQ community and people of color.
The report also says most of the bans have been pushed by about 50 groups, including Moms for Liberty -- a parental rights group founded in Florida -- and the Florida Citizens Alliance. In St. Lucie County Schools, a complainant submitted official reconsideration challenges for 44 titles from the FLCA’s “Porn in Schools” report.
“You never know what's going to be prohibited or banned next because now there's this attitude that that should be the norm, that some corner or one group should be able to dictate what is available and accessible for all,” said Jonathan Friedman, the director of education programs at PEN America. “It hardly seems like an appropriate way to participate in a diverse democracy."
According to the report, book bans in some Florida school districts began escalating this summer, after the passage of the “Parental Rights in Education” law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March.
“And as a result, they are making teachers and librarians uneasy,” said Friedman. “A lot of people who are charged with spurring curiosity and encouraging students to ask questions and learn about the wider world, are feeling like they can’t answer certain questions.”
Friedman says that book bans in public schools have recurred throughout American history, with notable flare-ups in the McCarthy era and the early 1980’s but the scope of such censorship has expanded drastically in the past year.
“These are efforts to rile people up by circulating excerpts of certain books online and calling for them to be rooted out of school systems,” he said.