Ron DeSantis inspires national book ban movement
Ron DeSantis bears down on school boards.

'He really is blazing a trail.'

As he vies for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is touting a series of measures he has pushed that have led to an upswing in banned or restricted books — not just in Florida schools but in an increasing number of other conservative states.

Florida last year became the first in a wave of red states to enact laws making it easier for parents to challenge books in school libraries they deem to be pornographic, deal improperly with racial issues or in other ways be inappropriate for students.

Books ensnared in the Florida regulations include explicit graphic novels about growing up LGBTQ+, a children’s book based on a true story of two male penguins raising a chick in a zoo and “The Bluest Eye,” a novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison that includes descriptions of child sexual abuse. Certain books covering racial themes also have been pulled from library shelves, sometimes temporarily, as school administrators try to assess what material is allowed under the new rules.

The day before DeSantis entered the presidential race earlier this week, a K-8 school in Miami-Dade County put the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman on a restricted list for elementary students after a parent complained. The reasons for the objection to the poem, which Gorman read during President Joe Biden’s inauguration, were not clear. The book version remains available to the middle school students, but Gorman criticized the decision to restrict it for younger grades, saying it robbed “children of the chance to find their voices in literature.”

While efforts to ban books or censor education material have come up sporadically over the years, critics and supporters credit DeSantis with inspiring a new wave of legislation in other conservative states to regulate the books available in schools — and sometimes even in public libraries. The number of attempts to ban or restrict books across the U.S. last year was the highest in the 20 years the American Library Association has been tracking such efforts.

EveryLibrary, a national political action committee, said it’s tracking at least 121 different proposals introduced in state legislatures this year targeting libraries, librarians, educators and access to materials. The group said 39 of those proposals would allow for criminal prosecution.

“He really is blazing a trail,” said Tiffany Justice, the Florida-based co-founder of the conservative parents group Moms for Liberty, whose members have filed challenges to books in libraries in several states. “What Ron DeSantis does that I think is effective is he uses all the levers of power to make long-term change happen.”

“Other governors,” Justice said, “are paying attention and following suit.”

In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law, set to take effect this summer, that could impose criminal penalties on librarians who knowingly provide “harmful” materials to minors. The law also would establish a process for the public to challenge materials and ask they be relocated to a section minors can’t access.

In Indiana, school libraries will be required by July 1 to publicly post a list of books they offer and provide a complaint process for community members under a law Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed this month. In Texas, a bill creating new standards for banning books from schools that the government considers too explicit has been sent to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

In Oklahoma, the state school board has approved new rules that prohibit “pornographic materials and sexualized content” in school libraries and allow parents to submit formal complaints. The rules still must be approved by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. On Friday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill that includes removing all books depicting sex acts, except religious texts, from school libraries.

DeSantis insists books aren’t actually being “banned” in his state’s schools, preferring to call the forced removal of some books “curation choices that are consistent with state standards.”

“There has not been a single book banned in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during a live appearance on Twitter Wednesday when he announced his campaign. He later said “our mantra in Florida is education, not indoctrination.”

Librarians, free speech advocates and some parents and educators say the push is driven by a small, conservative minority that happens to have outsized clout in Republican primaries, like the one DeSantis is now competing in.

“This is all part of his plan to run for president, and he believes his vilification of books and what’s happening in public schools is his path to the presidency,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s main teachers union.

Kasey Meehan, who directs the Freedom to Read program at the writers’ organization PEN America, said that, when books are targeted in Florida, they later become the subject of complaints filed by parents in other states.

“It’s something that continues to cause alarm for individuals who are advocating for the freedom to read or for a diversity of knowledge, ideas and books to be available to students across the country,” Meehan said.

PEN earlier this month sued the Escambia school district in Florida over the removal of 10 books, including “The Bluest Eye” and “Lucky,” a bestselling memoir by Alice Sebold about her rape when she was 18 years old.

There have been challenges to books in schools for decades — “The Bluest Eye” has been targeted in various states for years, long before DeSantis became governor. But the restrictions accelerated in Florida after DeSantis signed bills last year barring discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms, a ban that has since expanded through 12th grade. He also created a mechanism for parents to challenge books in school libraries and has targeted how race is taught in Florida schools.

Many teachers and districts complain that the laws’ standards are so vague they don’t know what books might place them in legal jeopardy.

The individual challenges to books might be coming from a fairly narrow segment of the population, according to PEN and the American Library Association, which track requests to pull books. The library association said 40% of all requests challenged 100 or more books at a time.

Raegan Miller of Florida Freedom to Read, a group fighting the book restrictions, said she has talked about education issues with fellow parents of all political persuasions for years, and no one has ever complained about inappropriate material in their children’s schools. She contends the issue has been ginned up by a small group of conservative activists.

“Do you really think we are all just happily dropping our kids off (for) Marxist indoctrination and pornography?” Miller said. “You only hear this stuff at school board meetings.”

Associated Press


  • Jay Smif

    May 27, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    Yeah, starting a national book-burning trend under the guise of “freedom,” is literally fascism on crystal meth. This is wrong at every level, and won’t end well for anyone.

    • Devil Penguins

      May 27, 2023 at 7:04 pm

      Those gay devil penguins were coming for Florida’s children with their alluring blue eyes but Ron DeSantis saved everyone. Praise The Lord for Ron and Casey DeSantis delivering us from gay devil penguins r8ping all our children.

    • The GOP is a Cult

      May 27, 2023 at 8:05 pm

      The Republican Party has literally turned from a “Small Goverment” party into a Big Government Authoritarian movement in under a decade.

      If you vote for Republicans in this day and age, you are anti-American. It’s simple as that.

  • Self Sinking Rhonda

    May 27, 2023 at 7:03 pm

    Rhonda seems hellbent on sinking himself. He does not require any help at all unless it’s Casey that’s been helping him (as with her “advice” on Rhonda wearing their white boots) in which case keep up the GREAT work, Casey! You truly are America’s sweetheart.

  • Anna Bystrik

    May 27, 2023 at 7:13 pm

    Not everything that is printed on paper and put in a binding is untouchable. The parents who pay taxes to sustain schools must be able to have a voice in what is being taught. There are plenty of books that do not create a contraversy and facilitate learning. The blame for an occasional overdoing book bans is not with these parents who initiate them, but with the previous set of authorities who has failed to filter pornographic filth and violent disturbing contents that have made their way into school libraries and even programs and at minimum distract students from learning skills, at maximum harming their emotional development. Valuable reading proficiency, math skills, scientific method must be taught in a non-political manner : this has proven to be hard enough.

    • Dont Say FLA

      May 27, 2023 at 7:24 pm

      We agree that parents should have a say in the books their own children read. Problem here is some religious busy bodies trying to have control over some books for ALL children. These folks can home school their children and control absolutely everything for their own children. They just need to leave everybody’s else’s children out of it. Easy peasy.

    • Michael K

      May 27, 2023 at 11:11 pm

      Oh dear. Knowledge is power and withholding knowledge is an attempt to keep people stupid. I believe that fear of the unknown drives some people to prefer ignorance over enlightenment, while other simply like to exert control over others, preferring authoritarian restrictions over the freedom to think and explore the world of ideas. I also believe in the power of grammar, spelling and syntax to make a point.

    • Bwj

      May 28, 2023 at 7:30 pm

      While I believe that parents need to be involved with their children’s education, they don’t have a right to tell my children what they can read and write and study. That’s a problem where you have one misguided or uneducated or bigoted parent having books removed or restricted. The Gorman poem is a perfect example.

    • Bwj

      May 29, 2023 at 5:26 pm

      So, we don’t teach Animal Farm, 1984, The Jungle, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, Of Mice and Men to children? Those books are being challenged as well? There are plenty of books that need to be read because they encourage critical thinking. They challenged norms and shine a light into darkness or illuminate so the world can better see.

    • T

      May 29, 2023 at 7:35 pm

      Then ask that your children don’t read the books. Don’t decide for everyone else. It’s about freedom.

  • Kermit The Frog

    May 27, 2023 at 7:55 pm

    I am suing Ron DeSantis for his repeated, grotesque impersonations of me. And Miss Piggy is suing Casey.

  • Ron DeSantis is a Fascist

    May 27, 2023 at 8:03 pm

    I’d like somebody to show me just ONE example of a time in history where the people banning books and ideas were the Good Guys.

  • Ed Dot Com 👍

    May 27, 2023 at 8:20 pm


  • Ocean Joe

    May 28, 2023 at 7:03 am

    The trouble may have started when her parents named her Tiffany.
    Yes, he is blazing a trail back to the Salem Witch trials.

  • Tom

    May 28, 2023 at 7:49 am

    A governor who is scared of words on a piece of paper – his parents must be very proud (and probably illiterate).

    • Dont Say FLA

      May 28, 2023 at 8:36 am

      Those words on paper, they are an obstacle to Casey DeSantis getting what she wants: Ron DeSantis falls off Elon Musk’s yacht and drowns. Elon consoles Casey. Smoochies. Mrs Billionaire.
      Or that’s her plan, at least. She must not realize there’s something about Elon that’s very relevant to her plan. Since she doesn’t realize, don’t nobody tell her!!!!!

  • Moms For Liberty

    May 28, 2023 at 8:46 am

    Us ladies at Moms For Liberty, we would like to apologize for using the word “Liberty” in our name. Also, the word “For.” Due to recent events it has come to our attention that we are not “for liberty” or even “for” anything at all. We are against things. We oppose. Also, Liberty is not our interest. Liberries are. We are Moms Against Liberries and we sincerely apologize for our misleading name which was entirely an accident, not any attempt at subterfuge as we clearly know words like, you know, “subterfuge,” they are the work of Satan.

  • T

    May 29, 2023 at 7:42 am

    There is nothing « free » about books bans. If there is concern about a book, let a parent notify the library that their child should not be allowed to check out a particular book. Banning it for everyone is all about control. You have to have courage to be in education in Florida. Thanks to all in education for your service to the children.

  • Alan

    May 31, 2023 at 8:11 pm

    Deathsantis’ is a murderous, racist bigot and NO fan of the country. He’s a terrorist and must be called out as such.

    From the article-““He really is blazing a trail,” said Tiffany Justice, the Florida-based co-founder of the conservative parents group Moms for Liberty,” They are a terrorist organization and it’s PAST time to call them as such. They are NOT for liberty in any way, shape or form. They are the danger.

  • Joe

    June 3, 2023 at 8:33 pm

    Uhhhh…. Yikes!!

Comments are closed.


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