Nearly 700 books pulled from OCPS teachers’ classrooms

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Nearly 700 books have been pulled from teachers’ shelves in Orange County schools this year to comply with new state rules. It’s drawing strong feelings from people on both sides.


Jen Cousins who is a parent of four Orange County Public School students showed her dislike fir the book ban.

“It’s taking away classics. It’s taking away books that nobody would have ever thought to ban before,” said Cousins.

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Her kids serve as four reasons she’s against how conservative the school district is going on which books they do and do not allow in teacher’s classrooms.

Governor Ron DeSantis has defended what the state is doing -- calling the book ban a hoax. DeSantis said his efforts are to protect children.

Channel 9 counted nearly 700 titles not allowed in the teacher’s class libraries. It includes works by Shakespeare and popular titles like “Catch 22″ and “Charlotte’s Web.” It’s all in an effort to follow state law that bans books with sex or pornography.

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“If parents are that adamant about their children having access to these types of books, please, by all means, it’s on Amazon. They’re at your local public library. These are not banned books,” said OCPS District 3 Board Member Alicia Farrant. “This is a public school. Our school districts should be focused on education, not on promoting and pushing sexual content in our media centers.”

The school district sent Channel 9 this statement about the removals and in response to the criticism:

“To be in compliance with Florida law (HB1069 and HB1467), the district created a submission and review process of all books available to students. Teachers scanned the books in their classroom libraries for a state-trained media specialist to review. The state-created media specialist training emphasized that they “err on the side of caution” to comply with state statutes. Based on their training, books may receive a NA designation.”

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Any book marked as “not appropriate” for any grade level in the Classroom Library Connector undergoes a secondary review by a small group of media specialists. The re-review could result in the book’s availability being adjusted to certain grade levels, or it could remain a “not appropriate” title. If the re-review determines the book is “not appropriate,” it shall be weeded from the collection. Our data shows that almost all books marked as “not appropriate” were marked as such because they describe or depict sexual conduct (per statute).  This is a fluid process as reviews are ongoing.”

A group of parents called “The Florida Freedom to Read Project” is fighting to raise awareness on the book removals. They believe, while not all books belong in classrooms, they want everyone  -- including parents and teachers -- to be a part of the selection process.

“To be part of the conversation and not just let outside interests come in and hijack our education system,” said Florida Freedom to Read Project Director for Development and Finance Raegan Miller.

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