Penguin Random House Joins Lawsuit Against Florida School District Book Bans

On Wednesday, a consortium of free-speech organizations, parents, writers, and the publisher Penguin Random House sued Escambia County school officials, arguing that they were too harsh in removing and banning books from public school libraries.

The federal complaint, filed in Pensacola, focuses on how the West Florida school system implements policies devised by Republican lawmakers and the DeSantis administration, including how parents and others can object to potentially unsuitable literature.

In the suit, the group claims that school authorities unfairly target literature about race and gender identity, infringing on First Amendment rights related to viewpoint discrimination.

“Today, Escambia County aims to prohibit novels that critics consider too ‘woke.’ “In the 1970s, schools attempted to ban Slaughterhouse-Five and books edited by Langston Hughes,” the group’s attorneys claimed in the case.

“Tomorrow, it could be books about Christianity, the country’s founding fathers, or war heroes.” These removals are in violation of the First Amendment, which is unconcerned with the current issue.

According to the lawsuit, Escambia has withdrawn several Penguin Random House works, including The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and Push by Sapphire. Almost 200 titles have been reviewed by the school system.

The legal action is the latest attempt to overturn restrictions established by Florida’s Republican leaders in the previous two years that have limited how children can be taught about race and gender issues.

State Republicans also enacted legislation allowing for local book challenges, and those guidelines were recently strengthened to require schools to remove contested titles within five days of being notified, a change opponents call “book banning.”

Previously, Florida teacher unions sued the Florida Department of Education in administrative court over procedures aimed to enforce book objections.

Penguin Random House Joins Lawsuit Against Florida School District Book Bans

In Escambia, the group requests that a judge order the school system to cease removing works from local shelves, claiming that school officials “are ordering books removed based on ideological objections to their contents or disagreement with their messages or themes.”

They argue that this is part of a more significant national trend, pointing to the conservative parental rights organization Moms for Liberty, pushing some initiatives to review books.

The complaint also investigates an Escambia County high school language arts instructor who disputed dozens of the county’s 197 books.

“Books are being ordered removed from libraries, or subject to restricted access within those libraries, based on an ideologically driven campaign to push certain ideas out of schools,” the group’s attorneys stated in a 59-page lawsuit.

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Officials from the Escambia County School District declined to comment on the proposed law.

This week, the Florida Department of Education began investigating a fifth-grade teacher in Hernando County after she showed kids the Disney movie “Strange World,” featuring a gay cartoon character.

The complaint was filed on the same day that DeSantis signed legislation broadening Florida’s regulations for book challenges.

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The Republican governor claimed at a private Christian school in Tampa that there had been a “concerted effort to try to do indoctrination” in libraries and literature aimed at youngsters up to the middle school grades.

“We had never done this in human history until two weeks ago?” According to DeSantis. “Isn’t this something? Third graders are being asked to declare their pronouns. The pronoun Olympics are not taking place in Florida; it is not taking place anywhere.”

The full list of plaintiffs challenging Escambia’s book laws includes PEN America, a free speech advocacy organization, many writers of challenged books, the publisher of books that have been challenged, and parents of local kids.

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