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Parental Rights Asserted in Challenge to DeSantis' Discriminatory Book Ban Policy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, parents of Florida public school students sued the DeSantis administration’s Board of Education for violating their First Amendment rights through the implementation of H.B. 1069. 

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, argues that H.B. 1069 discriminates against parents who oppose book bans and censorship. It gives parents who favor censorship a formal process to challenge a local school board’s decision to keep a book on school shelves, while parents opposed to censorship are excluded from the process altogether. The plaintiffs, parents of students in Florida public schools, are seeking review of their local school boards’ decisions to remove or restrict books in their children’s school districts and do not have access to seek that review.

“This law is an attempt to steal important decisions away from parents and allows those with a strong desire to withhold critical information on a variety of age-relevant topics to decide what books our kids have access to,” said Stephana Ferrell, FL public schools parent and plaintiff in this case, who requested review of her child’s school district’s decision to remove a book — and was denied. “The State of Florida should not be able to discriminate against the voices of parents they disagree with – I deserve an equal voice in my child’s education as any other parent.”

The affected parents are represented by the national legal advocacy group Democracy Forward, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“The freedom to read is essential to our democracy, and extremists’ efforts across the country to impose their personal discriminatory beliefs on what books our children can read set a dangerous precedent for our most basic freedoms and democratic ideals,” said Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward, co legal counsel for the plaintiffs. “This extreme law allows the government to unilaterally discriminate against certain viewpoints – that’s not only unfair, it’s unconstitutional and we won’t stand for it.”

“Over the past two years, public school parents across Florida have successfully defended their children’s freedom to read, convincing many school boards to reject the efforts of a small group demanding censorship in our schools,” said Sam Boyd, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “H.B. 1069 threatens to undo this progress by denying parents who oppose book bans equal voice in the review process.”

“Florida has become a national leader in book banning, garnering mass attention for the unprecedented number of books that have been removed from our public schools,” said Samantha Past, Staff Attorney from the ACLU of Florida. “A review process that is available only to parents with certain viewpoints violates the First Amendment. Denying parents an appropriate avenue to challenge censorship is undemocratic, and stifling viewpoints the state disagrees with is unlawful. Ultimately, these actions perpetuate the statewide attack on members of the Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ communities in an attempt to erase them from our history books.”