The controversy over a Florida school library and Amanda Gorman’s book, explained
After a parent complained about ‘The Hill We Climb,’ a Miami Lakes school decided to limit access to the poem
A Florida school has restricted students’ access to the poem Amanda Gorman read at President Joe Biden’s January 2021 inauguration after a parent filed a complaint claiming the book functions to “cause confusion and indoctrinate students.”
Children who attend Bob Graham Education Center — a K-8 school located in Miami Lakes — will no longer be able to read or check out “The Hill We Climb,” the slim volume that contains the inaugural poem by the same title. While some news outlets initially reported the school’s move as a “book ban,” the book remains available to middle school students.
The school’s decision to restrict student access to “The Hill We Climb” came after Daily Salinas, the mother of two children who attend the Miami-Dade County public school, filed a complaint in March, claiming that the book is “not educational” and includes indirect “hate messages,” according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project and published on NPR’s website.
In early April, a school committee decided to make the book off-limits to elementary students but to preserve middle schoolers’ access to the book due to its “historical significance,” The Washington Post reported.
Salinas challenged four other books in the Bob Graham Education Center library, according to the Miami Herald: “The ABCs of Black History,” “Cuban Kids,” “Countries in the News Cuba” and “Love to Langston.” She filed a separate form for each of the five books, the Florida Freedom To Read Project told the Deseret News via email.
In the “Request for Reconsideration of Media” forms, which were shared with the Deseret News, Salinas cited “CRT” — short for critical race theory — in her challenge to “Love to Langston,” remarking, “1st page wit (sic) CRT and more page have the same.”
A screenshot shows that Salinas objected to “The ABCs of Black History” due to “CRT and Gender Ideology.” She said “Cuban Kids” functions as “Indoctrination to socialism” and that she also requested “Countries in the News Cuba” to be removed because of “indoctrination.”
Salinas did not immediately respond to a Deseret News inquiry.
News of restricted access to the book sparked an outcry. Taking to social media, Gorman wrote, “I’m gutted.”
“I wrote ‘The Hill We Climb’ so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment,” Gorman said in a letter published on Twitter and Instagram. “Ever since, I’ve received countless letters and videos from children inspired by ‘The Hill We Climb’ to write their own poems. Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also responded, with Miami-Dade branch president Daniella Pierre telling NPR, “It is our collective goal to work on amending school board policy and effectuating changes to ensure that it takes more than one form to remove our history and heritage.”
Amid the controversy, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools also took to Twitter, saying that the book “was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.”
It’s the latest skirmish in the culture wars that are increasingly putting libraries on the front lines. During another controversy in March of this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, now a GOP presidential candidate, issued a press release referring to what he called a “‘book ban’ hoax.”
In the same press release, Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said, “Education is about the pursuit of truth, not woke indoctrination. Under Governor DeSantis, Florida is committed to rigorous academic content and high standards so that students learn how to think and receive the tools necessary to go forth and make great decisions.”
Bob Graham Education Center’s decision to move Gorman’s book also comes amid the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s “travel advisory,” warning tourists not to go to Florida, which the governor’s spokesperson called “nothing more than a stunt,” CBS News reported.
The Bob Graham Education Center is named after the Florida Democrat and two-term governor who went on to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate for 18 years.