From Publisher’s Weekly:
In response to a troubling wave of book bans, PEN America, Penguin Random House, a group of authors, and a group of parents have filed a federal lawsuit against a Florida school district over the “unconstitutional” removal of books from school libraries.
The suit, filed on May 16 in the Northern district of Florida in Pensacola, alleges that administrators and school board members in Florida’s Escambia County School District are violating the First Amendment as well as the 14th Amendment (the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution) because the books being singled out are “disproportionately books by non-white and/or LGBTQ+ authors” and often address “themes or topics” related to race or LGBTQ+ community.
The suit seeks to have the district’s actions declared unconstitutional and to have the banned books returned to library shelves.
“In every decision to remove a book, the School District has sided with a challenger expressing openly discriminatory bases for challenge, overruling the recommendations of review committees at the school and district levels,” the complaint alleges. “These restrictions and removals have disproportionately targeted books by or about people of color and/or LGBTQ people, and have prescribed an orthodoxy of opinion that violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments…. Today, Escambia County seeks to bar books critics view as too ‘woke.’ In the 1970s, schools sought to bar Slaughterhouse-Five and books edited by Langston Hughes. Tomorrow, it could be books about Christianity, the country’s founders, or war heroes. All of these removals run afoul of the First Amendment, which is rightly disinterested in the cause du jour.”
In a release, PEN officials called the suit a “first-of-its-kind challenge to unlawful censorship,” as it brings together concerned parents, authors, and a major publisher.
“In Escambia County, state censors are spiriting books off shelves in a deliberate attempt to silence pluralism and diversity,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel in a statement. “In a nation built on free speech, this cannot stand. The law demands that the Escambia County School District put removed or restricted books back on library shelves where they belong.” She added that “children in a democracy must not be taught that books are dangerous.”
Nihar Malaviya, CEO of Penguin Random House, agreed. “Books have the capacity to change lives for the better, and students in particular deserve equitable access to a wide range of perspectives,” Malaviya said in a release announcing the suit. “Censorship, in the form of book bans like those enacted by Escambia County, are a direct threat to democracy and our Constitutional rights. We stand by our authors, their books, and the teachers, librarians, and parents who champion free expression. We are proud to join forces with our longtime partner PEN America.”
Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly
PG instinctively sides with the parents in these sorts of cases. PEN and Penguin Random House don’t know anything about Escambia County, the schools, the teachers, the students or the parents. More than a third of the county’s population is not white. The largest minority, African-Americans, is over 20% of the population.
The county tends to vote Republican.
The median household income in Escambia County is $56,605.
The CEO of Penguin Random House earns about $700,000 per year. Suzanne F. Nossel, the CEO of PENN America, earns $423,478 per year and is a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
These two highly-privileged Manhattanites are the ones telling the parents of Escambia County’s school children what books those children must see in their school libraries without ever having met, let alone spoken with a single parent or child in Escambia County nor spent a minute of time in Escambia County prior to hiring attorneys to go there to straighten the poor folks out and show them who’s boss.