Public Schools

Latest victims of Florida’s book bans: Cute lion cubs and scaly anteaters

  Rob Boston

There’s no polite way to say this: The banning of books in Florida public schools has spiraled out of control. Confusion reigns, and the state is becoming a national embarrassment.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported recently that the Florida Department of Education released a list of all books targeted in the state’s public schools under three state laws that make it easier for people to challenge material used in public schools. It’s a sad tally that does a disservice to the Sunshine State’s children.

“In total, Florida saw 386 book removals from 1,218 total objections last year, according to the list,” reported the newspaper. “Clay County had by far the most removals with 177 books removed. Martin County removed the second most books in the state with 98 books removed, followed by Manatee County in third with 25 books removed.”

LGBTQ-themed books targeted

Some of the titles removed are longstanding targets of Christian Nationalists. These include And Tango Makes Three, a children’s book about two male penguins at a New York zoo that bonded together to raise a chick, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, often singled out for its sexual content.

But it’s hard to figure out what’s going on with some of the other books targeted, and you have to wonder if the people attacking the titles have even read them.

Take Christian, the Hugging Lion, for example. This book for young readers by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell is based on the true story of two men who raised a lion cub in London. While the men did live together, the book doesn’t discuss their sexual identities. It’s a heart-warming tale about their relationship with the lion, which they eventually took to Kenya to live in a national park. But Richardson and Parnell also authored And Tango Makes Three, so the book must be suspect, right? It was yanked from the shelves in Manatee County.

Fear of a scaly anteater

In Clay County, an anonymous resident demanded the removal of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, an award-winning dystopian science fiction novel aimed at young adult readers, and the district complied. The person who complained made various vague charges, asserting that the book contains “victimhood=CRT” and opining that if teens read it, they would become “Damaged Souls.”

Finally, Manatee officials also ditched What on Earth is a Pangolin? Edward R. Ricciuti’s book for kids focuses on this unusual, scaly anteater found in Asia and parts of Africa. District officials didn’t say why the book was pulled.

One of the (many) problems with Florida’s censorship law is that it gives too much power to Christian Nationalists and other meddling malcontents whose goal is to undermine public education. Anyone can complain about a book, and once that happens, the title must undergo review – even if the complaint is meritless.

It’s a recipe for chaos – and that’s exactly what Florida’s residents, and most tragically their children, are getting.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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