A school district in Florida has pulled three dictionaries from their shelves over fears of violating the state’s new laws banning materials with “sexual conduct” from schools.
The Escambia County School District reportedly pulled The American Heritage Children’s Dictionary, Webster’s Dictionary for Students, and Merriam-Webster’s Elementary Dictionary, from their shelves as part of its review of Florida’s HB1069 bill.
The bill was signed into law last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and gives residents the authority to challenge any book that “depicts or describes sexual conduct” and demand its removal from library shelves.
The Messenger noted that dictionaries’ definitions of words such as “sex” may have been what potentially triggered a review.
More than 1,000 books have been pulled from the district library shelves pending review.
In addition to the dictionaries, Escambia County has also pulled biographies of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey and Nicki Minaj. Also included in the list were the Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, according to advocacy group PEN America.
PEN America has filed a lawsuit against the district for the removals. A hearing in the case was scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
“School libraries are not state propaganda centers,” PEN America’s Florida director, Katie Blankenship said in a press release. “They are meant to be sites of inquiry, where students can encounter a diverse range of ideas, gain access to information, and inspire discussion, debate, creativity, and critical thinking.”
A spokesperson for the school district said in a statement that the books aren’t being banned, they’re just pulled for review to ensure they comply with the new law.
“The 1000+ books they reference have not been banned or removed from the school district; rather, they have simply been pulled for further review to ensure compliance with the new legislation,” the spokesperson said. “To suggest otherwise is disingenuous and counterproductive.”