MIAMI (WSVN) - In the midst of a nationwide observance of National Banned Books Week, Florida lawmakers convened Wednesday morning to tackle a pressing issue that has captured the nation’s attention: the rise of censorship in classrooms.

The contentious debate over book banning in the Sunshine State has escalated since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law new legislation governing what can be read in Florida’s schools.

As Florida Democratic Party leaders addressed what they describe as a disturbing uptick in censorship within Florida schools, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pointed out that Florida leads the nation in the removal of books from school libraries, with over 1,400 titles being taken off the shelves.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried and school board members from across the state voiced their concerns.

“Authoritarianism is about control, which knows no type of ideology,” Fried said. “Book banning is just one component of it.”

“Banning books, banning classes, it’s a gateway to censorship and the suppression of ideas,” said school board member Lucia Baez Geller. “This is not what democracy is about, and it’s not what public education is about.”

Many of these removals have been attributed to the state’s “Parental Rights in Education Law.”

“We want parents to be armed with the ability to make sure their kids are in a safe environment,” said the Florida governor in Orlando after announcing his presidential run.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County Public Schools are preparing to review new social studies learning materials approved by the Department of Education, in compliance with the state’s new laws. The district has faced criticism in the past for its decisions regarding restricted books.

One such incident occurred in May 2023 when “The Hill We Climb,” the poem that author Amanda Gorman recited at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, was removed from elementary schools and moved to middle school shelves after parent Daily Salinas filed a complaint.

“It’s about indoctrination and [critical race theory] and gender ideology,” Salinas told 7News back in May. “I guess, one, the kids receive the right information.”

The district cited the poem’s language as not age-appropriate for younger students.

Despite the district’s rationale, parents continued to express their outrage.

“We believe her complaint is hardly representative of the many parents who want their children to know and understand the world around them,” a woman stated during a school board meeting.

Furthermore, the Florida Department of Education’s approval of new social studies teachings has sparked controversy for including lessons about how enslaved Black people may have benefited from their bondage and for moving away from Common Core standards. On Wednesday, the board approved social studies learning materials for the next school year, to be presented and voted on during their next full meeting, which has been scheduled for next week..

As Florida lawmakers convene, the nation watches closely, and the debate over censorship in the classroom remains front and center, sparking discussions about parental rights, curriculum choices and the boundaries of free expression in education.

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