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A Miami K-8 school removed four books from its shelves. An advocate says it was censorship

Jessica Ruscello
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Raegan Miller said local school officials' process to remove Amanda Gorman's poem, along with several books, lacked transparency and amounted to censorship.

A top advocate with the Florida Freedom to Read Project harshly criticized the decision by local school officials to remove Amanda Gorman’s famous poem “The Hill We Climb” from its elementary shelves because one parent claimed it was meant to “cause confusion and indoctrinate students.”

Raegan Miller joined WLRN’s Tim Padgett and Kate Payne on the South Florida Roundup and said the process to remove it, along with several books, lacked transparency and amounted to censorship.

“I absolutely believe that this is a form of censorship,” said Miller, who serves as the director of development at the Florida Freedom to Read Project.

She questioned why other parents weren't consulted by school officials prior to making the move.

“The parents of the school should have been notified that there was a challenge,” she said. “All the other parents of the school should have had a seat at the table. They should have been able to voice their opinion.”

“If this parent didn't want their child to have access, why is there simply not an opt-out policy for that parent?”

The poem was one of four titles placed on a restricted list for elementary students. Among the other books were: “The ABCs of Black History” by Rio Cortez and “Cuban Kids” by George Ancona.

The books remain available to students at the school in grades 6-8 even though the parent, Daily Salinas, wanted them removed altogether.

The Miami Herald reported that the decision was made by a committee of teachers, a media specialist and the school’s principal.

In an interview with WLRN, Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz said the Miami Lakes school was following policy.

“The process worked,” Diaz said. “A parent has the right to make a complaint. But the process was put into effect and it worked where they deemed the proper placement of the books. And the students still have access to it at the right level. And no books were banned.”

READ MORE: Top education official defends decision to restrict presidential inauguration poem

The Daily Beast reported that Salinas, the parent who complained about the books, has connections to the far−right group Proud Boys and the conservative group Moms for Liberty.

The flurry of removals and reshelving come in response to new state laws and state policies increasing scrutiny of instructional materials and empowering parents and residents to decide what is considered “appropriate.”

In official guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education earlier this year, state officials warned librarians they could be charged with a crime if they provide books that are deemed “harmful to minors,” a reference to the state’s pornography laws.

According to a review by the free expression advocacy group PEN America, 175 books have been removed from shelves in Florida. Meanwhile, the American Library Association says the number of attempted book bans nationwide is the highest on record — and that the “vast majority” of titles being targeted are by or about LGBTQ people and people of color.

On the South Florida Roundup, we also spoke about what has been happening in the City of Miami government and the impact Russia will continue to have in Cuba.

Listen to the full conversation here.

WLRN Education Reporter Kate Payne contributed to this story.

Copyright 2023 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Ammy Sanchez
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