Florida schools remove books by John Milton and Toni Morrison and restrict Shakespeare under DeSantis rules

Over 100 have been removed from school shelves, teacher says

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 05 July 2023 17:57 EDT
100-year-old widow of WWII veteran compares Florida book bans to Nazi Germany

Over 150 books have been removed from a large, Orlando-area Florida school district, including classics like The Scarlet Letter, Paradise Lost, and The Invisible Man, as school officials review materials for sexual content under the state’s restrictive book ban laws.

According to a teacher keeping track of books that have been temporarily pulled for review by the Orange County government, titles by Shakespeare have been restricted to only 10th through 12 graders, while other popular works like The Fault in Our Stars, Into the Wild, and Catch-22 have been put on the restricted list because of sexual material.

One teacher told The Orlando Sentinel she was “gobsmacked” when she saw Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was among the restricted works.

She said she chooses works to study in class “to engage my students, to offer them literature that makes them think,” and that an accurate version of “the adolescent experience” in literature may contain some sexual themes, but still be valid for the classroom.

“It’s just so frustrating and disheartening,” she said.

The state’s book ban laws, passed under Republican governor Ron DeSantis, have caused empty shelves across Florida.

“The books are sitting out on tables, they’re being boxed up and discarded,” Florida school librarian Keri Clark told The Independent earlier this year. “It’s just it’s a really sad sight. A lot of the kids keep looking through the window and it’s just it’s awful that I can’t let them come in and get books.”

The Florida policyies are part of a nationwide surge of book bans.

During the first half of the 2022-2023 school year, school officials tried to restrict at least 874 individual book titles, according to PEN America, a nearly 30 per cent spike from book challenges over the previous year.

Overwhelmingly, the book ban attempts singled out works by and about people of colour and LGBT+ people, PEN found. At least 30 per cent of the impacted titles are books about race, racism, or feature characters of colour, and more than a quarter of all titles include LGBT+ characters or themes.

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