The author of a children’s book about a penguin family with two fathers and a group of students sued the Florida school district and the state board of education on Tuesday, alleging that restrictions on reading books in school libraries are unconstitutional.
The lawsuit alleges that the book was targeted for ideological reasons as a result of a surge in book removals due to the new law. Known by its opponents as “Don’t Say You’re Gay,” the state law bans guidance on gender identity and sexual orientation. In an effort to comply with the ordinance, the Lake County school district restricted access to 40 books, most of which dealt with LGBTQ issues and themes.
The lawsuit filed by the authors of the picture book “And Tango Makes Three” seeks to reuse the book and to find the law unconstitutional.
Restrictions on books have spread in some parts of the country, most notably Florida, where statewide regulations have been passed outlining what is appropriate reading material for children. Free speech groups and library groups say books removed from libraries are often described as inappropriate or pornographic, but in reality they are often racially themed or feature LGBTQ characters. It says.
“Our book was banned because tango has two fathers,” said Justin Richardson, who wrote the book with her husband Peter Parnell.
The book is based on the true story of a pair of male penguins named Roy and Silo who hatch baby chicks at the Central Park Zoo. Zookeepers named the chick “Tango.” The book’s authors, writer Parnell and psychiatrist Richardson, wrote this story after reading about the real-life Roy and Silo in a New York Times article. In that article, they were described as “two chinstrap penguins who were completely devoted to each other.” “
This picture book is for ages 4 to 8 and has won multiple awards. The depiction of a family with same-sex parents was banned or restricted in many parts of the country because parents and residents objected.
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Florida, the Lake County School District “cited no valid educational justification for its decision.” The lawsuit further stated, “This book is factually accurate and is neither vulgar nor obscene. ‘Tango’ used to be on the bookshelf in the school library. And “Tango” was illegal and restricted for narrowly partisan and political reasons. “
Lake County School District spokeswoman Sherry Owens said the school district could not comment on the pending lawsuit. “Removed access to ‘And Tango Makes Three’ for kindergarten through third grade, consistent with Florida House Bill 1557. We weren’t allowed to teach in the classroom,” Owens said. on mail.
A representative for the state school board did not respond to a request for comment.
Richardson said the book has been regularly challenged since it was published in 2005. But to his knowledge, the book was never permanently restricted in public school libraries until Lake County restricted access to it last December, he said. Comply with state laws.
The law initially applied to students in kindergarten through third grade, but a new law was passed last month that extends the limit to kindergarten through eighth grade. The lawsuit describes the law as “too vague and broad”, says its penalties are too harsh, and says educators who violate them can have their teaching licenses revoked.
The bill, called the Parents’ Rights in Education Act, was signed into law last year by Gov. explained that it is.
“Parents have the right to be informed about the services offered to their children at school,” he said in a statement when he signed the bill. “Schools should be protected from using classroom instruction to sexualize children as young as five.”
Richardson said in an interview that “Tango” is as age-appropriate as Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s book Make Way for the Ducklings. In this work, a female duck and a male duck are searching for the best place to raise their young in Boston. Chick.
“Both show waterfowl becoming parents and caring for their chicks,” Richardson said. “None of them have any sexual connotations or expressions, but only one, his, is prohibited.”
The lawsuit was also filed on behalf of six Lake County students, including an up-and-coming freshman in the district’s public school system, who, according to the complaint, allegedly abused animals. It is said that he wants to read “Tango” because he is interested.
The lawsuit violates a student’s First Amendment right to receive information and tarnishes the author’s reputation by suggesting that the book “contains sexual or age-inappropriate material that warrants a ban.” and claims that the author’s copyright has been infringed. right to speech is violated.
“Regardless of what people believe about the value of respecting families with two mothers and two fathers, it is harmful for children of all ages to learn who we are,” Richardson said. “There is no substance to the claim that it is or that it is inappropriate.”
Efforts to remove books have surged across the United States in recent years. The move is fueled by a growing network of conservative groups calling for the removal of books about race, gender, and sexual orientation, and by new statewide laws that make it easier to remove books, often from schools and libraries. there is
The Florida lawsuit is the latest action by literary groups, authors and parents fighting to overturn the book ban through courts and law.
Illinois last week became the first state to attempt a book ban in the nation, passing a law directing public libraries to adopt policies that prohibit the removal of books on the grounds of “partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” bottom.
Earlier this month, a group of librarians, bookstores and publishers filed a lawsuit to block the implementation of a new law targeting libraries and bookstores in Arkansas. Lawsuits say the law, which requires that any material potentially “harmful” to minors be displayed in a separate “adult-only” area, is unconstitutional and could send booksellers and librarians to jail. claimed to have sex.
The Publishers Association of America and several major publishers recently filed a brief in a lawsuit in Llano, Texas, suing county and library officials over the removal of books, including books on LGBTQ issues and race. supported. Among them is also the “caste” of Isabel Wilkerson.
And last month in Florida, free speech group PEN America and Penguin Random House, the country’s largest book publisher, spoke out against the removal of books written by non-white and LGBTQ authors dealing with the subject of sexual assault. It sued the Escambia County School District and the Board of Education. Race, racism, gender, sexuality.
Florida is at the center of a battle over what is appropriate reading for students. After states passed laws requiring trained media professionals to evaluate each book in a school to ensure it was age-appropriate and did not contain “pornographic” content, some At school, I hastily emptied and covered library shelves to scrutinize every title. .
In the “Tango” lawsuit, plaintiffs seek to restore access to the book and also seek a “permanent injunction barring state defendants from enforcing the new law.”
“This bill permits and, frankly, encourages perspective discrimination, and that’s exactly what happened with the implementation of this bill,” said law firm Serendy Gay Ellsberg, representing the plaintiffs. Attorney Faith E. Gay spoke about the bill. “Nothing goes too far than to hype a book like ‘Tango’.”