Florida county bans kids' book about gay penguins

Florida county bans kids' book about gay penguins
Image via Gage Skidmore.
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Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis claimed his “Don’t Say Gay” law only applied to “classroom instruction” in kindergarten through third grade, and only prohibited “sexual instruction,” but his Dept. of Education is promoting false claims that school library books are included, and some school systems are using the possibly unconstitutional law to ban books that have LGBTQ characters.

One Florida school system, Lake County, which includes about 60 public schools, has banned “And Tango Makes Three,” according to Popular Information‘s Judd Legum. The award-winning children’s book is based on the true story of two gay male Central Park Zoo penguins who adopt an egg and raise the baby penguin as their own.

There is nothing sexual about the book.

Popular Information quotes DeSantis defending his discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” law, officially titled the Parental Rights in Education Act.

“When you actually look at the bill and it says ‘no sexual instruction to kids pre-K through three,’ how many parents want their kids to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction?” DeSantis said. “It’s basically saying for our younger students, do you really want them being taught about sex? And this is any sexual stuff.”

READ MORE: 18 Attorneys General Blast Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law as Unconstitutional

There is nothing sexual about two male penguins raising a baby penguin.

“Florida schools are using the law to justify the erasure of LGBTQ people,” Legum reports. “Public records obtained by Popular Information through the Florida Freedom to Read Project reveal that several Florida schools have already removed books with LGBTQ characters from their libraries, citing the Parental Rights in Education Act. Further, training materials produced by the Florida Department of Education for librarians reveal that the DeSantis administration is encouraging this expansive interpretation of the law.”

Legum points to Lake County’s ban of three books, including, “And Tango Makes Three.”

“In Lake County, for example, the school district has removed three books with LGBTQ themes from libraries. The school district claimed the removal of these books was required ‘due to content regarding sexual orientation/gender identification prohibited in HB 1557,’ the Parental Rights in Education Act.”

READ MORE: Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Author Indicted on Federal Fraud Charges: DOJ

It’s not just Lake County. In Seminole County, three books removed from school library shelves “include gender-nonconforming characters, but have nothing to do with sex. Jacob’s New Dress, for example, is about a little boy that likes to wear dresses. Officials in Manatee County have also removed several books with LGBTQ characters from the shelves based on the Parental Rights in Education Act.”

Legum also reports how DeSantis’ Dept. of Education is encouraging school systems to ban as many books as possible, and using tactics from the far right to do so.

“To encourage the removal of more books, the training instructs librarians to ‘err on the side of caution’ and consider ‘whether you as an adult would be comfortable reading the material in person in a public meeting.’ The ‘read aloud’ standard has no basis in Florida or federal law but is being pushed aggressively by right-wing organizations like Moms For Liberty. Members of Moms For Liberty regularly attend school meetings and read passages aloud as ‘proof’ they are inappropriate for students.”

Read the entire Popular Information report here.

READ MORE: Florida Father Sues School for ‘Proselytizing’ in Favor of ‘Homosexual Lifestyles’ Under DeSantis Don’t Say Gay Law

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