OPINION: Banning books is the first step toward destabilizing students’ education

An outdated fear of change should not restrict a child’s reading. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A new wave of controversy followed books with LGBTQ and diverse stories being pulled and banned from library shelves in 2022. Because of this, teachers and librarians in Florida may have to undergo training to remove or avoid books that involve these topics, according to a Jan. 18 article by Education Week. 

To restrict Florida students’ access to books based on personal ideology is dangerous, and if the next generation of Florida teachers are to prepare future children, they need to be protected from civil prosecution. 

Florida has banned the second most books out of all 50 states. The state had 566 instances of book banning in 21 school districts, according to a 2022 WUSF report. Of these banned books, 41% contain themes or characters involving the LGBTQ community and people of color.

Thanks to the 2022 Parental Rights in Education law, or the “Don’t Say Gay” law, conservative parents’ rights groups are able to easily petition for books to be banned or sue teachers for their teaching curriculum if it involves themes parents do not agree with. 

Supporters of the legislation say it gives parents more involvement in their children’s education, however HB1557 states school districts are required to adopt certain procedures for resolving specified parental concerns, including paying for damages brought on by “emotional distress.” This opens the door for teachers or public schools to litigation for exposing students to materials that parents do not believe in or agree with, including LGBTQ identity and racism, resulting in books being removed or changed to avoid lawsuits.

The “Don’t Say Gay” law also allows anyone to petition for a book to be banned for any reason.

According to a 2022 report released by PEN America, book banning has become the most widespread form of censorship. Banning books does not stop children from accessing this information, but it does heavily restrict what can be taught by their teachers if one single person deems the lesson “too explicit” or does not agree with the subject matter. 

Teachers can’t do their jobs effectively if they are constantly having to worry about a potential lawsuit.

Banning literature for having LGBTQ themes or stories that bring attention to racism can prevent students from becoming aware of the issues society faces. The next generation of teachers cannot be afraid to teach about other ideals or cultures.

Teachers shape future generations, but this can be difficult to do when fear controls their lessons. Remaining ignorant will not solve the country’s growing problems, but learning from the ideas brought on through these types of books may offer better insight.