Florida Districts Say Porn Ban Means They Can’t Teach Shakespeare

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School districts in Florida are reportedly limiting their literary instruction by refusing to teach Shakespeare, claiming that by doing so they would be in violation of Florida law.

According to a book challenge law that took effect July 1, Florida school districts have been directed to discontinue the use of educational material containing sexual content “for any grade level or age group for which such use is inappropriate or unsuitable,” USA Today reported. Some districts have reportedly vowed to discontinue reading Shakespeare in their respective classrooms. (RELATED: Teacher: I Don’t Teach Shakespeare Because He’s White)

Hillsborough County, for example, instructed its teachers that excerpts of “Romeo and Juliet” could be assigned but not the full text, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“We have to protect our teachers and make sure they are not at risk and they don’t feel at risk, to be arrested or anything inappropriate happening to them,” Hillsborough School Board chairperson Nadia Combs stated, according to another report from the Tampa Bay Times.

A portrait of William Shakespeare

A portrait of William Shakespeare is pictured in London, on March 9, 2009. The portrait, painted in 1610, is believed to be the only surviving picture of William Shakespeare painted in his lifetime. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)

Hillsborough County officials claimed they were restricting some instruction of Shakespeare’s works not just because of fear of violating state law, but also to give teachers more time to cover other writing styles so students would be better prepared for the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST) test.

“[W]e try to make sure our kids are exposed to a lot of things that will be on FAST. And I think, why create something controversial if we don’t need to?” Combs said of the decision.

In Orange County, four Shakespeare plays have been approved by district officials, but only for grades 10 through 12, according to Orlando Sentinel. Books that had been previously taught but are no longer deemed appropriate under the new law include “The Color Purple,” “Catch-22,” “Brave New World” and “The Kite Runner,” USA Today reported.

“I think the rest of the nation — no, the world, is laughing at us,” high school teacher Joseph Cool told the Tampa Bay Times of the new law. “Taking Shakespeare in its entirety out because the relationship between Romeo and Juliet is somehow exploiting minors is just absurd,” Cool stated.

Though some county and school district officials have taken such a view of Florida’s new law, state officials have clarified the directive, assuring educators teaching Shakespeare is in no means a violation of state law.

“The Florida Department of Education in no way believes Shakespeare should be removed from Florida classrooms,” Education Department spokesperson Cassie Palelis told the Tampa Bay Times. “In fact, eight works by Shakespeare are included in the sample text list within the [state’s standards] including ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” Palelis continued.