A Florida elementary school moved a poem read to Joe Bidenthe presidential inauguration of part of its library for older children following a complaint from a parent – a move that left poet Amanda Gorman feeling “gutted”.
A committee at the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes decided to move a book containing Gorman’s Poemalong with three other books, from the elementary section and the middle school section of the K-8 library, Miami-Dade County Public Schools representative Elmo Lugo confirmed to HuffPost on Tuesday.
The move comes after the committee concluded, during a review of the parents’ complaint last month, that the material was “more appropriate” for older pupils, the Miami Herald first reported.
Gorman, who read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the United States Capitol in 2021, said she was “gutted” by the news and alleged the relocation amounted to a violation of the First Amendment.
“I wrote The hill we climb so that all young people can see themselves in a historic moment, ”she said in a statement.
“Since then, I have received countless letters and videos from children inspired by The hill we climb to write his own poems. Depriving children of the opportunity to find their voice in literature is a violation of their right to freedom of thought and expression.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, asked Wednesday about a school “ban” on the book, said the president and his administration were on Gorman’s side.
“Banning books is censorship, period. It is what it is. When you ban a book, you censor,” she told reporters. “And we should all oppose this type of act when it comes to books.”
The non-profit organization PEN America also criticized the decision, saying in a statement Wednesday that it “runs against our fundamental constitutional freedoms.”
“The book may remain available for middle school students, but when you restrict or decrease access to a book, that’s a ban,” the free speech organization said. “Moving The hill we climb on college shelves means elementary students can’t or won’t get it; their access has diminished.
The Florida parent who complained, identified as Daily Salinas, had argued that the poem was ‘not educational’, according to a copy of his complaint share by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, a local organization.
Salinas also said the text could “confuse and indoctrinate” and contained “messages of hate”.
She filed similar complaints against the books “The ABCs of Black History”, “Cuban Kids”, “Countries in the News: Cuba” and “Love to Langston”. All four are aimed at elementary readers, according to online descriptions.
Salinas had called for the books to be completely removed from all schools in the district. In a spanish interview with the HeraldSalinas said she was not in favor of “removing or censoring books”, but added that she wanted reading material to be age-appropriate and for students to “know the truth”. on Cuba.
The review board found that “The Hill We Climb” and three other titles were actually appropriate but better suited for middle school students.
The remaining book, “Countries in the News: Cuba,” was deemed both “balanced and age-appropriate,” according to a copy of the committee’s recommendations shared by the Florida Freedom to Read Project. So it could stay in the elementary section of the library.
Gorman’s poem was also deemed educational, “due to its historical significance”.
Lugo, the district representative, told HuffPost that the committee’s decision only applies to the Bob Graham Education Center and not the entire county. He further suggested that this decision did not constitute a book ban as Gorman and others have asserted.
“These books were never removed from the school site,” he told HuffPost.
“They were placed in a location so they would be accessible to middle schoolers and not elementary school students…because this particular school has two different types of audiences.”
School district representative Ana Rhodes clarified Wednesday that the moved books are not off-limits to younger students, as they can freely access the books in the middle school section of the library.
The school’s principal, Yecenia Martinez, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The outcry over the school’s decision comes after Governor Ron DeSantis (R) sign legislation encouraging critical reviews of school reading materials and restrictions on classroom discussions in the state. A law, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, specifically limits conversations about gender identity and race for certain students.
From March, 175 pounds had been removed classrooms across the state, according to a tally from PEN America.
Last week the group filed a complaint with publisher Penguin Random House against another Florida school district for its removal of books about race and LGBTQ+ identities.