More than 1 million books subject to review based on state's new laws

Gov. DeSantis-backed laws are behind the book review process.

February 13, 2023, 3:02 PM

More than 1 million books in Duval County schools in Florida are subject to review due to three state laws impacting certain subjects in education, including race, gender and sexual orientation, county officials told ABC News.

"As required by state law, we are in the process of having certified media specialists review all classroom library books," said Tracy Pierce, chief of marketing and public relations at Duval County Public Schools. "There are approximately 1.6 million titles in our classroom and media center libraries that need to be reviewed by a certified media specialist."

The books are under review based on several laws that restrict classroom topics, including the Stop WOKE Act and the Parental Rights in Education law, which was called the “Don’t Say Gay” law by LGBTQ activists.

County officials say books about historical Black and Hispanic figures were under review, including books on Roberto Clemente, a Puerto Rican baseball player who became a Major League Baseball icon despite facing racism and segregation in his career, as well as Hank Aaron, a Black baseball player who holds the second-highest total of home runs in history and was outspoken against racial discrimination.

However, officials say these books have been approved and are back on shelves.

Henry Aaron's Dream: Candlewick Biographies by Matt Tavares.

A report by the anti-censorship group PEN America claims other titles under review include a book about Celia Cruz, a Cuban singer known as the “Queen of Salsa,” was also removed from shelves, PEN America found, as well as a book about Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the court, was also reported by PEN America to be under review.

According to Duval County officials, the Florida Department of Education is training “all Florida schools districts to ‘err on the side of caution’ in determining if a book is developmentally appropriate for student use.” The county joins at least one other in heavily scrutinizing its book collection based on state laws.

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa Paperback – Illustrated, July 19, 2007, by Veronica Chambers (Author), Julie Maren (Illustrator).
Puffin Books

House Bill 1467, which has also prompted book reviews, prohibits books that contain “pornographic” content or are "inappropriate.”

The "Stop WOKE" Act restricts lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and in the workplace, particularly anything that discusses privilege or oppression based on race. WOKE in the bill stands for "Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees."

The Parental Rights in Education law states instruction on "sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards," according to the bill's language.

Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates, by Jonah Winter and Raul Colon.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Manatee County schools are also set to "remove or cover all materials that have not been vetted" in classrooms, according to a copy of the guidance previously obtained by ABC News.

Across the country, schools and libraries are facing challenges to books, predominantly affecting titles written by or about people of color and LGBTQ people.

Florida's comes amid a growing movement against certain lessons or discussions concerning marginalized groups in Florida classrooms.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration have also recently rejected an AP African American studies course because it is "inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value," according to state officials. His administration has also vowed to remove funding from diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education, as well as certain lessons on race.