A group of plaintiffs including the publisher Penguin Random House and individual authors whose books have been targeted amid a rise of Republicans’ interest in imposing new thought restrictions has sued the Escambia County School District, which is in northern Florida and includes Pensacola.
The plaintiffs are seeking a reversal of the disputed bans, which state Republicans including Governor Ron DeSantis have helped facilitate with a series of rules allowing for individual challenges to content found in local schools. One bill that DeSantis recently signed included new provisions mandating that challenged books be made inaccessible before the investigation into the materials is even complete, meaning that simply lodging a challenge, without even necessarily securing any negative finding about the book, is enough to block access to materials that somebody dislikes.
The new lawsuit also includes the involvement of PEN America, which supports free expression, and individual parents whose students are affected by Escambia County’s actions, and the case argues that the restrictions that have been imposed violate provisions of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the latter of which contains a mandate for what is known as equal protection. Those rules have potentially been violated by local educational leaders disproportionately targeting non-white and LGBTQ+ authors in their restrictions. According to details included in a press release from PEN America, Escambia County school leaders have gone forward with removing certain books despite a committee responsible for reviewing challenges recommending letting the titles remain.
“Children in a democracy must not be taught that books are dangerous,” Suzanne Nossel, who leads PEN America as its CEO, said. “The freedom to read is guaranteed by the constitution. 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. The law demands that the Escambia County School District put removed or restricted books back on library shelves where they belong.” The case is in federal court. Find more details right here.