Home Part of States Newsroom
In 2024, more censorship and bans: FL, TX removing large batches of books in public schools


In 2024, more censorship and bans: FL, TX removing large batches of books in public schools

Dec 21, 2023 | 4:51 pm ET
By Diane Rado
In 2024, more censorship and bans: FL, TX removing large batches of books in public schools
During the 2022–23 school year, book bans occurred in 153 districts across 33 states, according to a PEN America report. (Getty Images)

Earlier this month, a Texas school district in San Antonio removed more than 400 books “for review” to identify school library books considered inappropriate, in part because of potential sexual content.

In Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reported this week that Orange County School District removed 673 books this year — they were listed as books from public school teachers’ classrooms, not school libraries. (School staff will be reviewing those books, and some could be back on shelves.)

The large batch of books recently removed in Texas and Florida — the largest states in the country besides California — show that book bans in public schools will likely continue.

In Florida, where GOP lawmakers have been creating laws that would remove books on shelves, advocates such as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost of Orlando is pushing for the “Fight Book Bans Act.” Under the legislation in Congress, the federal Education Department would help cover book ban-related expenses up to $100,000 for each school district.

Kasey Meehan, the director of the Freedom to Read project at PEN America, responded to the reporting that Florida’s Orange County has removed 673 books from classrooms: “This is yet another disastrous consequence of Florida’s disastrous education policies. Hundreds of books have now been removed from Orange County shelves under HB 1069, and we continue to be alarmed by the magnitude and scale of censorship following the implementation of this law.”

HB 1069 is a 2023 piece of legislation in the Florida Legislature related to several measures, including book removals. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in May and it was effective July 1.

PEN America continues to track book bans, and Florida and Texas have the largest numbers. For example, a report at PEN America shows that:

“Book bans in public K–12 schools continue to intensify. In the 2022–23 school year, PEN America recorded 3,362 instances of books banned, an increase of 33 percent from the 2021–22 school year.

“Over 40 percent of all book bans occurred in school districts in Florida. Across 33 school districts, PEN America recorded 1,406 book ban cases in Florida, followed by 625 bans in Texas, 333 bans in Missouri, 281 bans in Utah, and 186 bans in Pennsylvania.”

Meanwhile on Thursday, PEN America announced in a news release the launch of an “expanded effort to support authors whose books have been banned.”

In addition, “With an emphasis on children’s book authors and illustrators, the literary and free expression organization will inform those affected when and where their books are banned, offer information and resources related to the freedom to read, and equip them with strategies for digital safety in the face of online hate and harassment. PEN America will also support authors looking to fight book censorship and amplify their voices in defense of the freedom to read.”