Jul 24, 2023 - Education

Parents take the reins in Florida's book censorship fight

Illustration of a hand reaching for a row of books that are falling like dominoes.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Even though school is out for the summer, the fight over book censorship is more intense than ever for some parents.

Catch up quick: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed bills in 2022 restricting how topics such as racism and sexual orientation can be taught in schools, and opening up the process of selecting instructional materials to the public.

Between the lines: DeSantis says it's a "hoax" to call such efforts "book bans" since they are still available in bookstores. Moms for Liberty frames its efforts as protecting "parental rights" and sometimes invokes God or spirituality.

Context: Parent Lissette Fernandez was alarmed when a complaint by a single parent led to a book by poet Amanda Gorman being removed from one ​​Miami-Dade County elementary school library in May.

  • Worrying about her own kids' education suffering as more books were challenged, she then reached out to Vanessa Brito, vice president of the Kendall Democrats.

What they're saying: News about book restrictions wasn't reaching the parent "in Kendall or on Eighth Street who takes her child to school before she's got to go to her Zumba class and then go to work," Britto says.

Details: They started the Moms for Libros Instagram account. Using both Spanish and English, Fernandez and Brito encouraged parents to apply for slots on committees that will review social studies textbooks, "rather than letting that process be saturated with the Moms for Liberty extremists," Brito says.

The other side: "Are they [Moms for Libros] opposed to parents having the final say in their child's public education? Because opposing our group opposes parental rights," Moms for Liberty co-founders Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice tell Axios in an email.

What's next: More than 1,500 applicants ultimately applied for the parent slots on the Miami-Dade public schools' textbook review committees.

  • At an Aug. 16 meeting, the school board is expected to finalize its policy governing what happens when a parent complains about a book in school and on what grounds a book might be removed.
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