Last month, the Florida Department of Education revealed that more than 300 books had been removed from public school shelves in the state during the 2022-2023 school year.
Under the pretense of keeping kids safe and preserving “parental rights,” Florida officials and conservative activists have spread misinformation about teachers and school libraries, claiming that any and all books that deal with gender or sexuality are inappropriate or pornographic.
Fueled by a surge in conservative culture wars and a package of education laws targeting instruction on gender and sexuality, there have been a deluge of book challenges from parents and residents in Florida.
The list of books no longer available to Florida students, which according to NBC News was quietly released late last month, is broken down by county, and tallies the number of book challenges as well as the books that were ultimately removed.
The vast majority of books are concentrated in Clay County, in the northeastern part of the state, where 177 titles were removed. There, infamous right-wing activist Bruce Freidman has led the charge in getting books pulled from the shelves.
Behind Clay was Martin County, in southeastern Florida, which had 98 books removed.
Within the list of hundreds of books declared no longer acceptable, there are some familiar targets, such as “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson, a guidebook for young LGBTQ+ people, and “Gender Queer,” a memoir by Maia Kobabe. These have been under fire for years from conservative groups waging a campaign against the LGBTQ+ community and smearing them as child abusers and predators.
But there were some unexpected bans as well. “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation,” by Ari Folman, was removed from a high school in Indian River County after a parent complained about the book’s sexual content.
In Wakulla County, the only book removed was “Little Rock Nine” by Marshall Poe. Poe’s novel is about two boys, one Black and one white, who are best friends in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 ― the year the city was forced to desegregate its schools and President Dwight Eisenhower sent in federal troops to do so.
Though the novel depicts an event of monumental significance in American history, a parent complained to her child’s elementary school because the book has profanity in it.
These types of parents are actually rare. Polling has shown that parents are largely against banning books. But the challenges keep coming, and Florida shows no signs of slowing down.
Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis ― who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination on a platform to “Make America Florida” ― signed into law HB 1069, a measure that restricts sexual and health education in the classroom and expands book ban policies even further. The law is in effect for this school year.