A school district in Florida has removed all books with LGBTQ+ characters, themes, and storylines from libraries available to elementary and middle school students.
A document from the Charlotte County School District obtained by the advocacy group Florida Freedom to Read directs librarians in the district to remove from their libraries and media centers all books with references to LGBTQ+ characters and themes.
The district later told Popular Info the removal only applied to libraries and media centers accessible to students in grades K-8 and was in accordance with the state’s “don’t say gay” Parental Rights in Education Act. While the move appears at odds with assurances made by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody that the law applied only to books used in classrooms, the district claimed the ban was legal because their libraries and media centers sometimes doubled as classrooms.
“This is exactly what we said would happen when they passed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws,” Nikki Fried, chairperson of the Florida Democratic Party, said in a statement denouncing the move.
The document dated July 24, described as a training document by PEN America and as a “summary or recap of the conversation” between Charlotte County Superintendent Mark Vianello and district librarians by the district, contained a list of questions and topics and their resolutions.
“No, these characters and themes cannot exist,” the staff member wrote in the document in response to one question regarding LGBTQ+ content in student activities.
The advocacy group PEN America said the district’s policy was in direct conflict with the stated policy of the DeSantis administration.
In a motion dated August 4 in the case of Parnell v. School Board of Lake County, Florida, PEN America noted Attorney General Ashley Moody's assertion that “HB 1557’s meaning is clear: It applies to formal classroom instruction, not library books[.]”
Logs obtained by Florida Freedom to Read and published by Popular Info showed the ban included the books The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini among others. The books were removed on July 24, the same date as the document.
“Books with LGBTQ+ characters and themes should be celebrated, not shunned — just like LGBTQ+ Floridians should be every day,” Fried wrote of the ban.