We blogged earlier this year about the top banned books of 2022. As we predicted, the spike in book bans across the country—and lawsuits challenging the bans—has not slowed down.
Florida Bans a Book about a Penguin Family
The authors of And Tango Makes Three, a children’s book about two male penguins who raise a chick together, are challenging a ban of the book in Florida as unconstitutional. Florida’s Lake Country School District banned the book and removed it from libraries under a Florida state law, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” The authors of the book, along with a group of parents, sued the school district and superintendent in a Florida federal district court challenging the ban and the law as unconstitutional. The Plaintiffs are bringing the suit to "vindicate their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and to stop the abhorrent and discriminatory practice of restricting access to books based on partisan, non-pedagogical motivations."
Earlier this summer, my colleague, Nicole Bergstrom, wrote about how PEN, Penguin Random House and a group of parents challenged a Florida school district’s ban on their books—which disproportionately deal with issues involving race, gender or sexuality.
Legislation to Restrict What Kids Read
While Florida remains the center of attention for many of these bans, efforts to restrict what kids read continues elsewhere across the country.
In June, Arkansas adopted a new state law, which requires librarians and booksellers to shelve any material that might be considered “harmful” to minors, such as books, magazines, or movies, in an “adults only” section. A group of librarians, independent bookstores and publishers challenged the law as unconstitutional. The law goes so far as to make it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, if a librarian or bookseller distributes a "harmful item" to a minor. The Arkansas law is set to go into effect next month.
Last year, our firm defended an author and publisher against an unconstitutional attempt to restrict access to A Court of Mist and Fury. We succeeded. But it's clear other states are still attempting to restrict access to books through legislation.
President Biden Appoints a Book-Ban Coordinator
A few weeks ago, President Biden appointed an “anti book-ban coordinator” to specifically address how book bans disproportionately discriminate against LGBTQI+ Americans. According to CBS, the new coordinator "will train school districts and advise them that banning books 'may violate federal civil laws if they create a hostile environment for students.'"
The And Tango Makes Three case is Parnell et al. v. School Board of Lake County, Florida et al., 5:23-cv-00381 (M.D. Fl.).
The lawsuit was brought to "stop the abhorrent and discriminatory practice of restricting access to books based on partisan, non-pedagogical motivations."