ORLANDO, Fla. – In the last year, there have been more than 2,500 instances of books being pulled from shelves in schools across America as conservative groups coordinate efforts to target books for numerous reasons, typically related to race or gender themes.
Some of those efforts got their start here in Central Florida.
PEN America, an international group that advocates for literacy freedom, released its report on the banned book movement Monday, as the annual Banned Books Week got underway.
PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, and 1,648 unique book titles, between July 2021 and June 2022.
Of the books banned, 41% had LGBTQ themes, protagonists or prominent secondary characters. Forty percent had characters of color as primary or prominent secondary characters, with 21% of the titles dealing with issues of race and racism.
Twenty-two percent of the books banned had sexual content.
The majority of the bans come from parent-driven efforts with groups like Moms for Liberty, a Brevard County-based group that has since gone national, with chapters in almost every state. These groups are not only targeting books in schools, but they are branching out into public libraries, and are also campaigning to take on leadership roles in school districts.
Moms for Liberty said it is committed to “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”
The group also added it is advocating for limited government roles and fighting school indoctrination.
PEN America, and other Moms for Liberty critics, accuse the groups of using the term “parents’ rights” to undermine and intimidate education professionals and other parents.
“While parents and guardians ought to be partners with educators in their children’s education, and need channels for communicating with school administrators, teachers, and librarians, particularly concerning the education of their own children, public schools are by design supposed to rely on the expertise, ethics, and discretion of educational professionals to make decisions,” PEN America said in the report.
In Florida, groups have been galvanized by several laws passed by the Florida Legislature this year which give parents more tools to remove books they disagree with. This includes the Parental Rights in Education law, also known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, HB 1467, which allows for heightened scrutiny by the public of school library and instructional materials, and HB 7, also known as the “Stop WOKE” Act.
PEN America lists 566 bans in 21 districts in its index for Florida. This does not include three books banned from Seminole County elementary schools this summer.
We contacted every school district in Central Florida. Not every school district responded to our requests. The following is a combination of lists from the 10 Central Florida school districts that responded, or PEN America’s index.
We also asked if any other book-related activities, such as book fairs, donations, readings or classroom libraries have been stopped or banned. All of the school districts that responded to us said no.
UPDATE: Orange County Public Schools responded to News 6, stating that no books had been pulled from shelves in the district over the last 2 years. The information in the table below for OCPS contains data only from PEN America.
|Brevard County (PEN America, School district did not respond)||Jesse Andrews||The Haters||Banned pending investigation|
|Elana K. Arnold||Damsel||Banned pending investigation|
|Infandous||Banned pending investigation|
|Red Hood||Banned pending investigation|
|What Girls Are Made Of||Banned pending investigation|
|Judy Blume||Forever...||Banned pending investigation|
|Stephen Chbosky||The Perks of Being a Wallflower||Banned pending investigation|
|Juno Dawson||This Book is Gay||Banned pending investigation|
|Ellen Hopkins||Crank (Series)||Banned pending investigation|
|People Kill People||Banned pending investigation|
|Tilt||Banned pending investigation|
|Triangles||Banned pending investigation|
|Tricks (Series)||Banned pending investigation|
|Khaled Hosseini||The Kite Runner||Banned pending investigation|
|Tiffany D. Jackson||Monday’s Not Coming||Banned pending investigation|
|George M. Johnson||All Boy’s Aren’t Blue||Banned pending investigation|
|Rupi Kaur||Milk and Honey||Banned pending investigation|
|Caroline Kepnes||You: A Novel of Dark Obsession||Banned pending investigation|
|Maia Kobabe||Gender Queer: A Memoir||Banned pending investigation|
|Malinda Lo||Last Night at the Telegraph Club||Banned pending investigation|
|Sarah Maas||A Court of Frost and Starlight||Banned pending investigation|
|A Court of Mist and Fury||Banned pending investigation|
|A Court of Silver Flames||Banned pending investigation|
|A Court of Thorns and Roses||Banned pending investigation|
|A Court of Wings and Ruin||Banned pending investigation|
|Empire of Storms||Banned pending investigation|
|House of Earth and Blood||Banned pending investigation|
|House of Sky and Breath||Banned pending investigation|
|Patricia McCormick||Sold||Banned pending investigation|
|Lauren Myracle||The Infinite Moment of Us||Banned pending investigation|
|Jennifer Niven||Breathless||Banned pending investigation|
|Ashley Hope Perez||Out of Darkness||Banned pending investigation|
|Amy Reed||Beautiful||Banned pending investigation|
|The Nowhere Girls||Banned pending investigation|
|Sally Rooney||Normal People||Banned pending investigation|
|Sapphire||Push||Banned pending investigation|
|Julia Scheeres||Jesus Land: A Memoir||Banned pending investigation|
|Elizabeth Scott||Living Dead Girl||Banned pending investigation|
|Alice Sebold||Lucky||Banned pending investigation|
|Ciara Smyth||Not My Problem||Banned pending investigation|
|Mariko Tamaki||This One Summer||Banned pending investigation|
|Kurt Vonnegut Jr.||Slaughterhouse-Five||Banned pending investigation|
|Flagler County (School District Response)||George M. Johnson||All Boys Aren’t Blue||Banned from high schools|
|Lake County (School District Response)||Angie Thomas||The Hate U Give||Banned from middle school libraries and classrooms|
|Marion County (School District Response)||None|
|Orange County (PEN America, School District responded saying no books had been pulled during the last 2 years)||Jonathan Evison||Lawn Boy||Banned from libraries|
|Ellen Hopkins||Tricks (Series)||Banned pending investigation|
|George M. Johnson||All Boys Aren’t Blue||Banned pending investigation|
|Maia Kobabe||Gender Queer: A Memoir||Banned in libraries and classrooms|
|Osceola County (School District Response)||Jesse Andrews||Me, Earl and the Dying Girl||Banned in libraries and classrooms|
|John Green||Looking for Alaska||Banned in libraries and classrooms|
|Ashley Hope Perez||Out of Darkness||Banned in libraries and classrooms|
|Ellen Hopkins||Tricks (Series)||Banned in libraries and classrooms|
|George M. Johnson||All Boys Aren’t Blue||Banned in libraries and classrooms|
|Polk County (PEN America, School district did not respond)||Jay Asher||Thirteen Reasons Why||Banned from libraries|
|Jonathan Safran Foer||Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close||Banned from libraries|
|Alex Gino||Melissa (George)||Banned from libraries|
|Abbi Glines||The Vincent Boys (series)||Banned from libraries|
|Robie H. Harris||It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender and Sexual Health||Banned from libraries|
|Ellen Hopkins||Tricks (Series)||Banned from libraries|
|Khaled Hosseini||The Kite Runner||Banned from libraries|
|Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel||I Am Jazz||Banned from libraries|
|Brian Katcher||Almost Perfect||Banned from libraries|
|David Levithan||Two Boys Kissing||Banned from libraries|
|E. Lockhart||Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural.||Banned from libraries|
|Toni Morrison||Beloved||Banned from libraries|
|The Bluest Eye||Banned from libraries|
|Jodi Picoult||Nineteen Minutes||Banned from libraries|
|Adam Silvera||More Happy Than Not||Banned from libraries|
|Raina Telgemeier||Drama: A Graphic Novel||Banned from libraries|
|Seminole County (School District Response)||Marcus Ewert||10,000 Dresses||Banned from elementary schools|
|Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel||I Am Jazz||Banned from elementary schools|
|Sarah Hoffman, Ian Hoffman||Jacob’s New Dress||Banned from elementary schools|
|Sumter County (School District Response)||None|
|Volusia County (None listed on PEN America, no school district response)||None|