A writers group and major publisher have sued a Florida school district over its Ron DeSantis-sanctioned removal of books about race and LGBTQ+ identities.
PEN America and Penguin Random House filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Escambia County School District and its school board alleging a violation of their First Amendment rights for removing 10 books from library shelves, reported the Associated Press.
“Books have the capacity to change lives for the better, and students in particular deserve equitable access to a wide range of perspectives. Censorship, in the form of book bans like those enacted by Escambia County, are a direct threat to democracy and our Constitutional rights,” said Nihar Malaviya, CEO of Penguin Random House.
The complaint does not name DeSantis as a defendant, although he has promoted challenges to books and classroom lessons on race, sexual orientation and gender identity as he considers a run for the Republican presidential nomination.
“In Escambia County, state censors are spiriting books off shelves in a deliberate attempt to suppress diverse voices. In a nation built on free speech, this cannot stand," said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. "The law demands that the Escambia County School District put removed or restricted books back on library shelves where they belong.”
The lawsuit blames one language arts teacher in the county for objections that prompted the school board to remove the books in spite of recommendations from a district review committee, which found the titles educationally suitable.
The teacher relied on materials compiled by a website that generates reports on books deemed to be ideologically inappropriate for children.