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Florida school moves Amanda Gorman's poem "The Hill We Climb" to middle school section after complaint

Florida school moves Amanda Gorman's poem "The Hill We Climb" to middle school section after complai
Florida school moves Amanda Gorman's poem "The Hill We Climb" to middle school section after complai 03:03

MIAMI - A book based on a poem written by the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, has caused controversy at one Miami-Dade school.

The book and the poem are titled The Hill We Climb. Gorman famously performed the piece at President Joe Biden's 2020 presidential inauguration.

A parent of two children who attend Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school in Miami Lakes, took issue with the book and filed a complaint which resulted in the book's removal from elementary level access. 

The complaint alleged that the material is not educational, has indirect hate messages, causes confusion, and indoctrinates students. It also incorrectly stated that Oprah Winfrey is the book's author.

Gorman tweeted she was 'gutted' by what happened and urged followers to speak out in response to the controversy, Miami-Dade schools issued a statement which read in part:

"No literature (books or poem) has been banned or removed. It was determined at the school that The Hill We Climb is better suited for middle school students and, it was shelved in the middle school section of the media center. The book remains available in the media center."

Florida is at the center of the debate on book bans, particularly as more time and resources get devoted to reviewing which books should be in school libraries and who should have access to them.    

This comes after a push by Gov. Ron DeSantis to BSN books based on whether they are appropriate for children in schools. 

The Escambia County School District is being sued by Penguin Random House, PEN America, authors, and parents after it removed books discussing race, racism, and LGBTQ+ identities.

The lawsuit claims that the school district violated the First Amendment when it ordered the removal of books against the recommendations of its own experts, with the banned books including "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison, "The Nowhere Girls" by Amy Reed, and "Lucky" by Alice Sebold.

Escambia County, located in the state's panhandle, is allegedly "depriving students of access to a wide range of viewpoints" and specifically targeting books that "critics view as too 'woke,'" the lawsuit claims.

PEN America, a group that champions free speech, said removing titles from school libraries teaches students that books are dangerous. That's a lesson that should not be taught in a democracy, Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America, said in a statement

"In Escambia County, state censors are spiriting books off shelves in a deliberate attempt to suppress diverse voices," she said. "In a nation built on free speech, this cannot stand."

One parent, Lindsay Durtschi, said she joined the lawsuit because she believes banning diverse books creates "irreparable harm to the voices and safety of students in Florida."

On Wednesday, United Teachers of Dade released the following statement:

"At United Teachers of Dade, we strongly condemn book bans and the recent "relocation" of the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem, "The Hill We Climb", from being read by elementary school students in Bob Graham Education Center, in Miami Lakes. This decision not only limits the access to an important literary work, but also hinders the educational and intellectual growth of our students. 

Book bans undermine the power of literature to foster understanding, empathy, and critical thinking. They restrict our students from exploring diverse voices and perspectives, which are essential for their development and the cultivation of a well-rounded education.

We champion inclusivity, open-mindedness, and diverse literature that reflects the rich tapestry of our world and fosters cultural appreciation.

We stand with Amanda Gorman and all authors facing censorship.

We proudly support Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava's invitation for Amanda Gorman to share her poem in Miami-Dade County, ensuring our students have access to inspiring literature.

As educators, we provide thought-provoking content that sparks dialogue and expands understanding. Let's oppose book bans and relocations and uphold intellectual freedom. Literature shapes our future generations. This rejection is fascist and anti-American."

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