‘The Color Purple’ Removed From Schools Under New Florida Law

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‘The Color Purple’ Removed From Schools Under New Florida Law

Classics like 17th-century epic poem Paradise Lost and Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World are among 673 books removed from Orange County, Florida, classrooms in wake of a new state law that requires schools to remove “sexual content” from their shelves.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that some books among the hundreds of titles—including bestsellers and those previously taught in high school such as The Color Purple and Catch-22—are at least temporarily banned until district staff can give them a second review.

Orange County Public Schools began compiling its list of targeted books this summer to comply with House Bill 1069, which passed the Republican-controlled Legislature, was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and is an expansion of the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

At a Dec. 12 school board meeting, the Sentinel reports, one board member said media specialists were under “great fear” because of the laws that hold them liable for classroom library titles and were thus engaging in “over censorship.”

“It’s creating this culture of fear within our media specialists and even teachers who just want to have a library in their classrooms, so kids have access,” said former elementary teacher and board member Karen Castor Dentel.

The roster of doomed novels includes John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and multiple titles by Toni Morrison such as The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Song of Solomon.

Popular books like John Grisham’s The Firm and several novels of Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Colleen Hoover, Ellen Hopkins, George R.R. Martin, and Nicholas Sparks were also cut, as well as fantasy author Sarah J. Maas’ entire A Court of Thorns and Roses series—which is also being banned from districts in other states.

More than a few critically acclaimed works are gone too.

The list also includes: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, and On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

According to the Sentinel, the state has advised media specialists to “err on the side of caution” when greenlighting certain books; the educators could lose their teaching certificates or face criminal penalties if they rubber-stamp inappropriate materials.

One district parent, Judi Hayes, told Spectrum News 13 that she’s concerned about the newly banned books, including some that are required reading in schools elsewhere.

“Even when they’re talking about the sexual content of these books, they’re being read by higher level students,” Hayes said. “These are kids that are sometimes 18 years old.”

Her son Jack, a high school sophomore, added, “It makes me feel a little pessimistic towards where education is going right now.”

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