Last week, Palm Beach County schools modified their new policy to allow for books prohibited by the “Don’t Say Gay” laws to be held in school libraries. This comes after State Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, shared in August that the “Don’t Say Gay” laws do not apply to books in school libraries. Moody stated that the bills specifically refer to classroom instruction and therefore do not apply to library content.
Two parts of the new school policy created in response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bills were rescinded. The two parts previously allowed for the district to restrict access to books on reading lists and in libraries if they cover the banned topics. This part of the law is what caused issues for so many districts as they struggled to identify what library books would and would not be considered prohibited.
Community members still have the ability to challenge specific books they believe are inappropriate or pornographic. Moody’s announcement came after she called to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Lake County Public Schools for having the children's book “And Tango Makes Three,” a children's book adaptation of the true story of two male penguins who took an orphaned child into their care, in its library.
“The Attorney General’s opinion restoring previously banned books to school libraries is only the first step required to return public education back where it was prior to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws,” said Judge Rand Hoch (retired), Founder and President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “Hopefully, someday, the courts strike down the rest of this mean-spirited law.”
On Sept. 5, a coalition of anti censorship organizations consisting of Pen America, The Florida Freedom to Read Project, and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) sent a letter to schools across Florida alerting them of the change. The letter urged districts to immediately return any books that were removed in response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bills. It also offered to provide the books if the schools no longer had them available.
The organizations also sent a letter to the Florida Department of Education asking for written guidance on books related to the “Don’t Say Gay” bills, as it has been increasingly unclear what is allowable under the bill.
While the fight is not over, this is a major victory for opponents of the “Don’t Say Gay” laws and the current administration, and an important step to improving education for children.