Florida’s viral list of ‘banned’ books is ironic

In recent weeks, social media users have criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ policies to crack down on classroom teaching around LGBTQ issues and race.

Recent examples may have some parents worried about their school library.

A picture, circulated in the world Twitter and Facebook, ostensibly showing Florida’s “banned books list.” In a now-deleted tweet on Aug. 21, an account called “Freesus Patriot” posted an image with the caption: “Florida’s Anti-Awakening Banned Book List.”

The term “anti-awakening” is reminiscent of Florida’s Stop Wakening Act, which allows the state to regulate how schools deal with issues of race and gender. While Freesus Patriot later said the list was satirical, others believed it to be true.

The list features 25 bestsellers, including To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Color Purple by Alice Walker and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

(political facts)

Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweet “The Book We Teach Generations”, next to the list. She later said she should “double check” before sharing.

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill also shared a screenshot of the list Twitter — Accumulated over 100,000 likes and 24,000 retweets.

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment. However, the governor’s office called the list “completely fictitious.”

“This photo is fake,” said Brian Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary. “There is no list of banned books at the state level. The state has guidelines on content, and local school districts are responsible for enforcing those guidelines.”

Griffin also noted that the state’s “Benchmarks of Excellence in Student Thinking,” or “BEST,” criteria recommend some books for inclusion on the “anti-arousal” list.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” and Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” are recommended for eighth graders in Florida. George Orwell’s “1984” is recommended for ninth graders, while John Steinbeck’s “Mice and Men” and William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” are recommended for tenth graders.

After DeSantis scrapped the Common Core Education Standards in 2020, Florida adopted the best measure of literacy.

Florida school districts have banned about 200 books, according to a report released by PEN America, a nonprofit that tracks book bans in the United States.

According to PEN America, Florida has the third-highest number of books banned in schools between July 2021 and March 2022, after Texas and Pennsylvania.

Eight of the 25 books listed in the tweet were questioned in February at the Indian River County School District in Florida – The Purple, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; Alex “George” by Kes Gino; “Forever” by Judy Bloom; “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas; “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini; “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher ; and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie.

The books were removed during the investigation, but the district later restored them, deeming them suitable for students.

Similarly, Walton County, located in the Panhandle, temporarily removed 58 books, including “George,” “Forever,” “The Hate You Give,” “The Kite Runner,” “Thirteen Reasons Why,” and “Absolutely True.” The Part-time Diary of India,” reviewed in April.

“The books on this list have been banned before, some in prominent places; but not all of them have been banned recently, only some in Florida,” said Summer Lopez, chief program officer at PEN America.

HB 1467, signed into law by DeSantis, would require the state to publish a list of books questioned by parents — but not for its removal.

This viral image doesn’t depict the actual list of books banned in Florida schools. We rate claims that it is indeed False.

This fact-check was originally published by PolitiFact, part of the Poynter Institute. Republished here with permission. Check out the source of this fact check here, and see more of their fact check here.

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