DCPS leads the state in requests to ban books, reports show

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Attempts to ban books from school libraries are on the rise, according to a new report.

PEN America, a group that advocates for freedom of expression, found more than 2,500 instances of individual books being banned from school library shelves.

Texas and Florida accounted for more than half of the book bans last school year.

And in Florida, Duval County saw 176 requests to ban books — the most in the state.

The report said the district opted not to distribute sets of the “Essential Voices Classroom Libraries” collection after it was flagged for concern over the content.

RELATED: Board votes to keep 8 controversial books on St. Johns County school shelves

These are books the district has already purchased but are effectively shelved pending an investigation.

The titles, which the publisher says are designed to make classroom libraries more diverse and inclusive, include:

  • “Pink Is For Boys” by Robb Perlman

  • “Dim Sum for Everyone” by Grace Lin

  • “At the Mountain’s Base” by Traci Sorrell

According to the report, the surge in book bans is the result of a network of political and advocacy groups targeting books with LGBTQ+ storylines and characters and books involving race or characters of color.

A separate report by the American Library Association noted similar trends. The ALA has documented 681 challenges to books through the first eight months of this year, involving 1,651 different titles. In all of 2021, the ALA listed 729 challenges, directed at 1,579 books. Because the ALA relies on media accounts and reports from libraries, the actual number of challenges is likely far higher, the library association believes.

Banned Books Week Began Sunday and will be promoted around the country through table displays, posters, bookmarks and stickers and through readings, essay contests and other events highlighting contested works. According to a report issued in April, the most targeted books have included Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir about sexual identity, “Gender Queer,” and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy,” a coming-of-age novel narrated by a young gay man.

“We’re seeing that trend continue in 2022, the criticism of books with LGBTQ subject matter,” Caldwell-Jones says, adding that books about racism such as Angie Thomas’ novel “The Hate U Give” are also frequently challenged.

Banned Books Weeks is overseen by a coalition of writing and free speech organizations, including the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Authors Guild and PEN America.

According to the PEN America report, locally, Flagler County and Clay County have banned “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” and Flagler County has requested to ban “Speak,” “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America ,” and “The Hate U Give.” There’s a request in Clay County to ban “Lucky.”

In St. Johns County, the report noted six banned books, including “Lucky,” “Thirteen Reasons Why,” “Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens,” “The Breakaways,” “A Court of Frost and Starlight,” and “Sold. “

The majority of the bans come from parent-driven efforts with groups like Florida-based Moms for Liberty.

The group said it is committed to “unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”

News4Jax is reaching out to DCPS for comment on this report and where the district is in its review process on the banned book requests.

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