Following a parent’s complaint, one K-8 school in Florida restricted access to a poem by Amanda Gorman that she had read at the 2021 presidential inauguration. The school moved the book in its library to a shelf for upper-grade students only. But social media posts falsely claimed Miami-Dade County had “banned” the book in all its elementary schools.
Since 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a handful of high-profile education bills that the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, have condemned or considered controversial.
DeSantis, who is a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has signed bills that prohibit public colleges from funding diversity programs and prevent teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity with students in public schools through grade 12.
He also signed CS/HB 7, or the Individual Freedom law, which according to the governor is intended to ban critical race theory from being taught in Florida schools. Critics say the law will limit the teaching of Black history.
On May 20, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Florida “in direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.” The NAACP advisory says, “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”
DeSantis also signed a bill that, according to a press release from the governor’s office, “aims to preserve the rights of parents to make decisions about what materials their children are exposed to in school.”
On March 29, a parent filed a complaint with a K-8 school in Miami-Dade County about a poem read by Amanda Gorman during President Joe Biden’s inauguration. As a result, the book containing the poem was moved to a section of the school library reserved for students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Posts on social media began to spread the misleading claim that Miami-Dade County had “banned” Amanda Gorman’s poem from all 158 elementary schools in the county.
“FLORIDA FASCISM. Miami-Dade County has banned the poem read by Amanda Gorman during President Biden’s inauguration from elementary schools following the objection of a single parent,” read a post on Instagram, which was shared by comedian D.L. Hughley.
The posts exaggerate the action taken in Florida. The poem was not “banned” or restricted at all elementary schools in the county. Access to the poem was restricted in one school to students in the upper grades.
At Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school located in Miami Lakes, one parent complained about five different reading materials — including the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Gorman. As a result of the complaint, four of the five materials were restricted from students in grades K-5, the Miami Herald reported.
The other four books noted in the parent’s complaint were “The ABCs of Black History,” “Love to Langston” by Tony Medina, “Countries in the News: Cuba” by Kieran Walsh, and “Cuban Kids” by George Ancona.
The parent cited “hate messages” and “CRT” — or critical race theory — as some of the reasons for the complaint, according to documents shared with the Miami Herald and posted on Twitter by the Florida Freedom to Read Project.
Following the parent’s complaint, the books were reviewed by a committee at the Miami Lakes school, and it was decided the material was appropriate for the students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
The Florida Freedom to Read Project shared another tweet that included the meeting minutes from the committee review.
“Below are the minutes from the review committee meeting that was held on 4/5/23. Aside from THE HILL WE CLIMB, all the books were written w/K-5 readers in mind. Due to ‘age appropriate’ language in HB7, this committee ‘erred on the side of caution’ & restricted them to 6-8,” the Florida Freedom to Read Project tweeted.
The review committee said Gorman’s “book has educational value because of its historical significance,” and “was determined to be of value for middle school students.”
The Miami-Dade County Public Schools district also clarified its action regarding Gorman’s poem in a tweet on May 23: “In order to ensure accurate information, @MDCPS is compelled to clarify that the book titled, ‘The Hill We Climb’ by @TheAmandaGorman was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.”
About 570 books have been banned or restricted in Florida from July 2021 to June 2022, according to PEN America, a nonprofit suing a Florida school district along with the book publisher Penguin Random House over the recent bans.
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Alfonseca, Kiara. “PEN America, Penguin Random House sue over banned books in Florida school district.” ABC News. 17 May 2023.
Ax, Joseph. “Florida education board extends ban on gender identity lessons to all grades.” Reuters.com. 19 Apr 2023.
“Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Bill that Requires Curriculum Transparency.” News release. FLgov.com. 25 Mar 2022.
Human Rights Campaign staff. “Gov. DeSantis Signs Slate of Extreme Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills, Enacting a Record-Shattering Number of Discriminatory Measures Into Law.” 17 May 2023.
“Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Legislation to Strengthen Florida’s Position as National Leader in Higher Education.” News release. FLgov.com. 15 May 2023.
Chapell, Bill. “1 complaint led a Florida school to restrict access to Amanda Gorman’s famous poem.” NPR. Updated 25 May 2023.
Chu, Andrea. “DeSantis signed 5 education bills: Here’s what they’ll do.” WTSP. 9 May 2023.
Florida Senate Committee on Education. “CS/HB 7— Individual Freedom.” Accessed 2 Jun 2023.
Papaycik, Matt. “Florida’s governor signs controversial bill banning critical race theory in schools.” WPTV.com. 22 Apr 2022.
Pilkington, Ed. “Amanda Gorman ‘gutted’ after Florida school bans Biden inauguration poem.” The Guardian. 24 May 2023.
“NAACP Issues Travel Advisory in Florida.” Press statement. NAACP. 20 May 2023.
Associated Press (@AP). “A poem by Amanda Gorman that was written for President Joe Biden’s inauguration has been placed on a restricted list at a South Florida elementary school after one parent’s complaint.” 24 May 2023.
Brugal, Sommer. “Miami-Dade K-8 bars elementary students from 4 library titles following parent complaint.” Miami Herald. 24 May 2023.
DeMillo, Andrew, et al. “Presidential hopeful DeSantis inspires push to make book bans easier in Republican-controlled states.” Associated Press. 26 May 2023.
Florida Freedom to Read Project (@FLFreedomRead). “Here are the documents we shared w/ @smbrugal of the @MiamiHerald. They restricted THE HILL WE CLIMB by @TheAmandaGorman, forward by @Oprah to grades 6-8 of the @MDCP K-8 school after a parent complained it was ‘not educational’ & contained ‘hate messages.’ Absurdity.” Twitter. 23 May 2023.
Florida Freedom to Read Project. “About.” Accessed 2 Jun 2023.
Florida Freedom to Read Project (@FLFreedomRead). “Below are the minutes from the review committee meeting that was held on 4/5/23. Aside from THE HILL WE CLIMB, all the books were written w/K-5 readers in mind. Due to “age appropriate” language in HB7, this committee “erred on the side of caution” & restricted them to 6-8.” Twitter. 23 May 2023.
Miami-Dade Schools (@MDCPS). “In order to ensure accurate information, @MDCPS is compelled to clarify that the book titled, “The Hill We Climb” by @TheAmandaGorman was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.” Twitter. 23 May 2023.
Yang, Wesley (@wesyang). “Headline: “Amanda Gorman’s poem for Biden’s inauguration banned by Florida school” Paragraph 15-16: “one of the books…was balanced and age appropriate, and would remain available for all students…” The other four were deemed “better suited” or “more appropriate” for middle school students.” 25 May 2023.
“PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans.” PEN America. Accessed 2 Jun 2023.