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Florida's book bans lead a wave of crackdowns in conservative states

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made book restrictions a central cultural issue in his presidential bid. Now more states are following his lead.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Posted at 5:41 PM, May 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-26 17:41:46-04

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is highlighting recent measures to ban or restrict books in Florida schools, actions which have inspired a wave of similar restrictions in conservative states nationwide.

The challenges to books are a central cultural issue for DeSantis, who announced Wednesday that he would seek the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election.

Florida last year passed laws that make it easier for parents to challenge books in school libraries that they say are pornographic, improperly approach racial issues or may be otherwise inappropriate.

DeSantis maintains that books aren't being banned, but instead curated in a manner that is "consistent with state standards."

"There has not been a single book banned in the state of Florida," DeSantis said during his live statement on Wednesday.

Earlier in May, a group of writers and a major publishing house sued a school district in Florida over the state's new laws, alleging that in pulling books from shelves, the district was infringing on students' First Amendment rights.

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Under Florida's Parental Rights in Education law, a parent can file a complaint about educational material that they feel is not age appropriate.

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Other states have followed Florida's lead. 

An Arkansas law, signed by Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and set to take effect this summer, would enable more challenges and bring criminal penalties for librarians who knowingly give minors "harmful" materials.

Indiana's Republican Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill in May that will require school libraries to post a list of the titles the offer, and give community members a channel for complaints.

Iowa's Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law requiring schools remove any titles, except religious texts, that depict sexual acts.

Oklahoma and Texas have similar rules awaiting approval from Republican governors. 

The American Library Association said 2022 saw a record 1,269 challenges to books or library resources, more than double 2021's 729 challenges. Most of the challenged works were created by or about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color.

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The Seattle Public Library believes that access to banned books should be granted, and they're part of a growing movement across the country.

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