Essay | The War on Words: Understanding the Book Banning Battle in Florida
Florida has a long history of censorship and struggles between censorship and freedom of expression. Concerns about freedom of information and education have been raised due to historical censorship and book banning in Florida. This history has created a backdrop for the current challenges to intellectual freedom and access to diverse ideas in the state.
The recent surge in book banning in Florida has targeted books on sensitive topics like race, gender, and sexuality. Over 40% of book bans in the US last school year occurred in Florida, impacting access to diverse perspectives and ideas. Conservative groups, such as Moms for Liberty, have been instrumental in turning school board meetings into spectacles, leading to increased challenges and removals of books.
Book banning significantly affects Florida students, educators, and authors, restricting access to diverse perspectives and ideas. For instance, Collier County Public Schools in Florida has banned over 300 books, including literary classics and books adapted into films and TV shows, due to the broadened school board oversight of library collections and expanded mechanisms for challenging books. This has limited the educational opportunities and exposure to different viewpoints for students.
Resistance to book banning in Florida includes public protests, legal challenges, and advocacy for free speech. Parents and students are actively fighting against book removals at school board meetings despite feeling tired and defeated due to recent legislation making it more difficult to oppose them. A federal judge has even ruled that a lawsuit challenging [book bans](https://abcnews.go.com/US/book-ban-lawsuit-moves-forward-florida-district-removes/story) in Escambia County, Florida, can move forward, citing violations of the First Amendment and disproportionately targeted books by or about people of color and LGBTQ people.
Ways to combat book banning in Florida include advocacy, participation in school board meetings, and supporting organizations fighting censorship. Addressing book banning in Florida is crucial for safeguarding intellectual freedom and promoting open access to literature and diverse ideas. Additionally, recent legislative developments, such as the proposal to allow schools to charge a fee for objecting to more than five books, aim to discourage frivolous challenges to books and protect intellectual freedom.
Recent legislative developments in Florida, such as the “Don’t Say Gay” law and the Stop WOKE Act, have led to restrictions and removals of books. Escambia County has removed over 2,800 individual books from shelves for review, leading to a lawsuit claiming violations of the First Amendment and disproportionately targeted books by or about people of color and LGBTQ people. These developments have raised concerns about removing inappropriate reading material for children and have ignited discussions about the balance between censorship and intellectual freedom.