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Post Distorts Florida School Policy on ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Quick Take

A Florida school district is allowing students to read only excerpts of “Romeo and Juliet” in class — not passages with sexual content. But a Facebook post incorrectly suggests all Florida high schools are removing the “full text” of the play from classrooms. The state’s education commissioner included the play on a recommended reading list for grades nine to 12.

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PEN America, an organization that advocates for writers’ free expression, issued a report in April that warned of a rise in book bans in classrooms and school libraries across the country, fueled by parents’ groups and state laws that target books deemed harmful or sexually explicit. The report found “1,477 instances of individual books banned, affecting 874 unique titles, an increase of 28 percent compared to the prior six months, January – June 2022.”

Among the states leading the book ban movement is Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis spearheaded the passage in 2022 of the Parental Rights in Education bill. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, the law prohibited “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

The Florida Board of Education approved an expansion of the ban to cover all grades from elementary through high school in April.

But a social media post exaggerates action taken by Florida’s schools on a play by William Shakespeare that has long been a staple for high school students.

A Facebook post by Brian Tyler Cohen, a podcaster and former managing editor of Occupy Democrats, says, in part: “Florida high schools are now removing Shakespeare, including the full text of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ to comply with Republicans’ new law restricting ‘sexual content.'”

The post is wrong on two points.

Not all Florida high schools have removed “Romeo and Juliet” or other works by Shakespeare.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education sent a statement to the Tampa Bay Times on Aug. 8 saying, “The Florida Department of Education in no way believes Shakespeare should be removed from Florida classrooms. In fact, eight works by Shakespeare are included in the sample text list within the (state) Standards for English Language Arts, including ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet.’”

Manny Diaz, Jr., Florida’s education commissioner, also listed “Romeo and Juliet” as one of his recommended books of the month on Aug. 8 for grades nine to 12.

But Hillsborough County Public Schools has said it will only allow classroom study of excerpts from “Romeo and Juliet,” as well as “Hamlet” and “Macbeth,” in the district’s high schools and will avoid passages with sexual content.

“There’s some raunchiness in Shakespeare,” Joseph Cool, a reading teacher at Gaither High School, told the Tampa Bay Times. “Because that’s what sold tickets during his time.”

The Hillsborough schools are not banning “the full text” of “Romeo and Juliet” or other plays, as the Facebook post claims.

“First and foremost, we have not excluded Shakespeare from our high school curriculum. Students will still have the physical books to read excerpts in class,” the Hillsborough school district said in a statement to the Associated Press. “Curriculum guides are continually reviewed and refined throughout the year to align with state standards and current law.”

But it’s also worth noting that Florida had the second-highest number of book banning incidents in the U.S. from July to December 2022, targeting books not only about sexuality, but also race and gender identity, according to PEN America.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


DeLuca, Alex. “Report: More than 350+ Books Banned in Florida School Districts.” Miami New Times. 25 Apr 2023.

Florida Department of Education. Press release. “Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. Announces August Books of the Month.” 8 Aug 2023.

Izaguirre, Anthony. “Florida board passes DeSantis’ expansion of the Parental Rights in Education bill.” Associated Press. Updated 20 Apr 2023.

Mazzei, Patricia, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter. “Florida at Center of Debate as School Book Bans Surge Nationally.” New York Times. 22 Apr 2023.

PEN America. “What is PEN America?” Accessed 10 Aug 2023.

PEN America. “Banned in the USA: State Laws Supercharge Book Suppression in Schools.” 20 Apr 2023.

Schneider, Mike. “Shakespeare and penguin book get caught in Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay Laws.'” Associated Press. 8 Aug 2023.

Sokol, Marlene. “Hillsborough schools cut back on Shakespeare, citing new Florida rules.” Tampa Bay Times. Updated 8 Aug 2023.

Soule, Douglas. “Florida clarifies that Shakespeare is OK for classrooms, but confusion still reigns.” Tallahassee Democrat. Updated 9 Aug 2023.

Walker, Jackson. “Florida school district restricts ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ other plays due to sexual content laws.” WEAR News3. 9 Aug 2023.