Pinellas County Florida Schools Remove Diverse Books in Haste
Students’ rights to access ideas are threatened when book removal decisions are made in a cursory manner. The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has contacted Pinellas County School Board in Largo, Florida, to ask the district to ensure any decisions to remove materials are based solely on legitimate criteria as mandated by district policy instead of being influenced by political pressure.
The NCAC is concerned that recently removed books, including Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi; What is White Privilege?, by Leigh Ann Erickson and Kelisa Wing; and Antiracist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi and illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, were in haste and targeted for the political views they express. Also, a review committee of school library media specialists was tasked with reviewing 94 books over two days which is not enough time to read, discuss, and assess the educational value of the targeted materials.
Multiple Supreme Court rulings demonstrate the importance of a thoughtful review process to ensure that schools offer students free access to various viewpoints. In Its Pico ruling in 1982, the court found that “access to ideas makes it possible for citizens generally to exercise their rights of free speech and press in a meaningful manner. Such access prepares students for active and effective participation in the pluralistic, often contentious society in which they will soon be adult members.” Also, last year in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., when it found, “America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy. Our representative democracy only works if we protect the ‘marketplace of ideas.”
When book challenge adjudications are made under a comprehensive committee review, decisions are less likely to result from political pressure or other improper considerations. Therefore, the NCAC urges Pinellas County School Board to return the removed books and work to ensure removal decisions are based solely on legitimate criteria as mandated in district policy.