In a recent development, two parents, a book publisher and authors have come together to file a lawsuit against the Escambia County School District in Florida. The lawsuit claims that the district’s decision to remove sexually explicit literature from library shelves is a violation of the First Amendment, the very foundation of free speech.
The lawsuit alleged that the Florida district, through its book ban, deliberately censored specific ideas and perspectives in the ban of books based on race, racism and gender identities.
The federal lawsuit alleges the Escambia County School District and its School Board are violating the First Amendment through the removal of books about race and LGBTQ+ identities. https://t.co/SkOHzXdPcC
— FORTUNE (@FortuneMagazine) May 17, 2023
Ten books were removed by the school district, including, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “When Aidan Became a Brother” by Kyle Lukoff, “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “Lucky” by Alice Sebold and “Push” by Sapphire.
Together, the plaintiffs are hoping the courts will order for these books and several others with obscene content to be returned to the libraries for children to read.
The lawsuit is led by PEN America, a nonprofit organization which claims it is dedicated to safeguarding freedom of expression. It is joined by authors of adult fiction such as David Levithan, Ashley Hope Pérez and George M. Johnson, alongside children’s book author Kyle Lukoff, children’s book illustrator Sarah Brannen and book publisher Penguin Random House.
“Ensuring that students have access to books on a wide range of topics and expressing a diversity of viewpoints supports a core function of public education, preparing students to be thoughtful and engaged citizens,” PEN American said in a statement on Wednesday.
According to the lawsuit, the decision to remove the books puts the political agenda of an “extremist minority” before the judgment of educators and parents as it disregards the recommendations of the district review committee. As for “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” all members of the committee voted for it to be removed, per Fox News.
The lawsuit further contends that the district’s actions violate the Equal Protection Clause, as they claimed books by non-white and/or LGBTQ authors were specifically targeted for removal.
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, passionately declared that children in a democracy should not be taught to fear books. “Children in a democracy must not be taught that books are dangerous. The freedom to read is guaranteed by the constitution,” she stated, adding that the removal of books is a deliberate attempt to stifle diverse voices.
CEO of Penguin Random House Nihar Malaviya, expressed his support for the authors and their books, emphasizing that literature has the power to positively impact lives. He argued that censorship, exemplified by book bans like the ones enacted by the Escambia County School District, poses “a direct threat to democracy and our constitutional rights.”
As the legal battle unfolds, the implications extend beyond the borders of Escambia County as it could set a precedent for book bans within educational institutions in Florida and America as a whole.