Penguin Random House sues Florida school district over ‘unconstitutional’ book bans

A school district and school board in Florida’s Escambia County were sued in federal court by free expression group PEN America and Penguin Random House, one of the largest book publishers in the world, and several prominent authors and families following dozens of challenges to books and materials discussing race, racism and LGBT+ people.

The lawsuit filed in US District Court on 17 May argues that school officials have joined an “ideologically driven campaign to push certain ideas out of schools” and against the recommendation of experts.

“This disregard for professional guidance underscores that the agendas underlying the removals are ideological and political, not pedagogical,” the lawsuit states.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ushered through sweeping laws to control public school education and lessons and speech he deems to be objectionable while characterising reporting on the impacts of such policies as a “hoax” manufactured by the press.

In Escambia County alone, nearly 200 books have been challenged, at least 10 books have been removed by the school board, five books were removed by district committees, and 139 books require parental permission, according to PEN America.

Challenging such materials is “depriving students of access to a wide range of viewpoints, and depriving the authors of the removed and restricted books of the opportunity to engage with readers and disseminate their ideas to their intended audiences” in violation of the First Amendment.

The lawsuit also argues that singling out materials by and about nonwhite and LGBT+ people is an intentional violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment

“This is no accident,” according to the lawsuit. “The clear agenda behind the campaign to remove the books is to categorically remove all discussion of racial discrimination or [LGBT+] issues from public school libraries. Government action may not be premised on such discriminatory motivations.”

This is a developing story