A Florida school district has backtracked its decision to restrict a children’s book about gay penguins, allowing the literature to appear in its libraries, according to The Associated Press.
In June, a coalition of students alongside the authors of “And Tango Makes Three,” a book about two male penguins who father a baby penguin together, sued the Lake County School Board and the Florida Department of Education (DOE) alleging that the state’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, which prohibits age-inappropriate lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation in K-8 classrooms, is a violation of free expression, according to Politico. The Lake County School Board decided that the book, which was originally removed to be in accordance with the “Parental Rights in Education” law, will be placed back in the school after the Florida DOE clarified that its law only applies to the classroom, not libraries, according to the AP. (RELATED: ‘Dirty Books’: Librarian Org Celebrates Efforts To Keep Pornographic Books In Schools)
“The book was never removed from our libraries. Access was restricted for students in Kindergarten through Grade 3,” Sherri Owens, communications coordinator for Lake County School District, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Now that we have received clarification on Florida HB 1557, wherein the state explains that the bill’s application is to classroom instruction and not to books in our libraries, we are following the law based on the state’s legal position and have removed the age restrictions from the library books. Parents who do not want their children to have access to books in a school media center or classroom library may restrict books by topic and/or title by completing an online form.”
The Lake County School Board filed a motion asking a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit against them now that the Florida DOE has clarified how far the “Parental Rights in Education” law extends, the AP reported.
The lawsuit alleged that the state’s “Parental Rights in Education” law targeted the book because of its “message of inclusion and tolerance” and for acknowledging the “existence, of LGBTQ+ individuals,” Politico reported.
“The book is factually accurate, non-vulgar, and non-obscene,” the lawsuit alleged, according to Politico. “’Tango’ had previously stood on school library shelves; and ‘Tango’ was restricted for illegitimate, narrowly partisan and political reasons.”
Parents, school boards and lawmakers throughout the country are debating how to discuss topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation in schools; in Iowa, a school district flagged nearly 400 books in July to review because they may violate a new state law that prohibits the teaching of gender identity to certain grades and prohibits material that depicts sex acts. Utah’s largest school district pulled 52 books in August 2022 for “inappropriate content,” including “Gender Queer” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue.”
The Florida DOE did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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