Florida now leads the nation in the number of books removed from public school classrooms, libraries, and media centers
According to a recent report from PEN America — it’s a century-old nonprofit that works to protect free expression through literature — Florida overtook Texas during the last school year for the number one spot when it comes to the number of books banned in public schools. There’s been a 33% spike in book bans nationally, and Florida now accounts for more than 40% of all documented bans.
As an example, Collier County Public Schools removed more than 300 books from its shelves. It includes:
- The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
- The Man in the Iron Mask, by Alexandre Dumas
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
- On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
- Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
- Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
You can see a full list of books now banned in Collier County Public Schools here.
This comes as a result of reviews required by House Bill 1069, passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Governor DeSantis in May.It, in part, prohibits sexual content in schools and makes school boards responsible for materials used in classroom libraries and media centers. You can read the full text of the bill here.
In response to these trends, PEN America just named its first-ever Florida Director, Katie Blankenship. She’ll be overseeing advocacy in defense of free expression across the state. Her office is being funded by a group of bestselling writers who have come together to fight censorship in Florida.
We meet Ms. Blankenship, and learn about the work being done by what’s called The Purple Group to push back against issues like book bans. It’s a nonpartisan group of Lee County residents who believe high quality public schools that welcome all students and their families are the bedrock of our multicultural, multi-ethnic democracy.
Katie Blankenship is the inaugural director of PEN America’s new Florida office
Madelon Stewart is a member of The Purple Group
Marge Cox is a retired Library Media Educator and member of The Purple Group, and she is a member of the Lee County School Board’s Curriculum Advisory Committee
WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.