The Public School District sites references to discrimination as the reason for the book’s removal
The shelves of the public school libraries in Duval County, Florida no longer contain a book about the late Afro-Puerto Rican MLB legend Roberto Clemente. In the Duval County Public Schools District, more than 1 million books have been “covered or stored and paused for student use,” according to Chief Academic Officer Paula Renfro. These books include “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” by Jonah Winter and Raul Colón, as well as others about notable Latinos like the late Afro-Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz and Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
School officials are evaluating whether or not these books can be added to school libraries and still be in compliance with state laws. Laws that mandate that schools rely on certified media specialists to approve which books can be incorporated into classrooms were signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last year. Schools received instructions on how to put that into action in December.
According to the school district, books must adhere to state standards, which prohibit teaching gender identity and sexual orientation to K–3 students, prohibit teaching critical race theory in public grade schools, which analyzes systemic racism in American society, and prohibit including references to pornography and discrimination.
52 certified media specialists for Duval began reviewing roughly 1.5 million book titles in January, according to Sonya Duke-Bolden, a spokeswoman for the public school system. So far, media professionals have given their approval to nearly 2,800 books. If additional books were reviewed but not accepted, Duke-Bolden did not mention it.
Some 176 elementary school books from the Essential Voices collection were among the books that were taken out of the libraries of Duval County public schools, according to PEN America, a nonprofit organization that promotes literary freedom of expression. In addition to some titles that were substituted, the organization claimed that more than 100 books were removed because their “content was too mature for the grade level for which it was intended”
According to Duke-Bolden, 47 titles that were substituted for Essential Voices collection books that were not available were returned. With regard to the more than 170 books, “106 were deemed to be useful for our reading goals and have been distributed to classrooms,” while 26 others are still being evaluated. The full content of each book must be evaluated for age-level appropriateness and compliance with Florida law, Duke-Bolden continued, “remember that even though a title may appear to be appropriate.
More than 30 of the books that were taken out of Duval County were written or illustrated by Latinos, or they included Latino characters and storylines. These included Winter’s Clemente book, “Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa” by Veronica Chambers and Julie Maren, “Sonia Sotomayor (Women Who Broke the Rules Series)” by Kathleen Krull and Angela Dominguez, and “Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa” by Veronica Chambers and Julie Maren.
“His story is his story. He went through racism. It’s something that can’t be changed,” Clemente Jr. said. “But obviously, for the younger students, if it’s something that they feel is too much for them, they might be able to utilize a different book with the same story, but it’s framed differently for them, for that for that age group.”
said Roberto Clemente Jr. He continued by saying that he hoped the legacy of his father and the life he lived will inspire people of all ages.
Words by Myles Morales for INTELIGENCIA