Sep 22, 2023 - News

Florida leads the country in book bans

Illustration of a book wrapped in caution tape

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Florida surpassed Texas as the state with the most books pulled from shelves in public schools this year, according to a report released yesterday from literary nonprofit PEN America.

What's happening: The number of public school book bans across the country increased by 33% in the 2022–23 school year compared to 2021–22, the report found.

Why it matters: Florida had 1,406 cases of books being removed from the shelves.

  • That was followed by Texas (625), Missouri (333), Utah (281) and Pennsylvania (186).

Context: Book removals were sparked by what critics call Florida's "Don't Say Gay" laws and the Stop WOKE Act, which restricts instruction around racism, gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools.

  • Fearing that educators and librarians could be penalized by those state laws, districts are now restricting access to certain books.
  • PEN America says conservative activists are using a website called Book Looks to home in on what to deem objectionable.

What they're saying: PEN America calls the book removals part of a nationwide "Ed Scare" campaign to hamper free expression in public education by fomenting anxiety and anger.

  • The organization says "hyperbolic and misleading rhetoric" has led to the bans, which overwhelmingly target books on race or with LGBTQ+ characters.

The other side: Gov. Ron DeSantis has called book bans a hoax, arguing that many were removed from libraries and classrooms because of content that was pornographic or violent.

  • The Book Looks website says, "We do not support 'banning' books" and that it aims to inform parents, who can provide proper guidance to children.

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