“This alarming development is just the latest in an onslaught of attacks against students’ freedom to read in Florida,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America in a statement.
K-12 has been been the target of censorship as it continues to creep into school libraries. This year alone, more than 100 bills directed toward K-12 and higher ed have been introduced in state legislatures.
One of the bills includes the Florida House Bill 1557, otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
PEN America, an organization that promotes the freedom for people to write and express their views and ideas, recently discovered that Collier County School District in Florida has placed warning labels on books, describing them as “unsuitable” for children.
Over 100 books received a warning label, and an overwhelming majority of them involve LGBTQ+ characters and narratives about communities of color. The label reads, “this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”
“Even if access to these books is not technically restricted, the labeling of these books risks attaching a stigma to the topics they cover and the books themselves,” said Friedman.
Susan Meyers’ Everywhere Babies and Jessica Love’s Julian is a Mermaid are just two examples of books that received a warning label.
Other authors targeted include Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, George Johnson, Ibram Kendi, Ellen Hopkins, Ashley Hope Pérez, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Arundhati Roy, John Updike, and more.
“Under the guise of ‘parental rights,’ interest groups have been empowered by opportunistic elected officials and are now hijacking public schools,” said Friedman. “Every child deserves the right to learn from a diverse set of voices and perspectives, and to freely access the books they wish to read.”
About the books that received a warning label:
- 42% have LGBTQ+ characters or themes
- 15% involve transgender characters or themes
- 31% involve protagonists or secondary characters of color
- 46% involve sexual content, including sexual education books
- 9% are picture books