A fake list of banned books in Florida is circulating widely online

The claim: Image shows a list of books banned from schools and libraries in Florida

In July, a new Florida law went into effect that allows parents to raise concerns about books taught in schools and ask local districts to ban them.

Nevertheless, many prominent people on social media claimed that a slew of books were immediately banned from schools and libraries across the state by law. They circulated an image of 25 book titles listed on a piece of paper.

The book list includes novels taught in schools for generations, including “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Catcher in the Rye” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. It also includes the Harry Potter series and the Bible Song of Solomon.

The image of the list of banned books was shared by President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten and Star Wars actor Mark Hamill August 21 and 22. Hamill’s tweet racked up over 30,000 retweets and 150,000 likes.

An August 21 Facebook post featuring the book listing image has been shared 80 times. The message reads: “Current list of banned books in Florida. Tragic how many totalitarian Third World states exist in the United States in 2022.”

But the list is a fiction.

While school districts can ban books through a process created by the new law, Florida has not banned any books at the state level, a spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis told USA TODAY.

In fact, several books on the list have been recommended to school districts by the state Department of Education.

Weingarten corrected and deleted his tweet a few hours after its publication. Many other messages introducing the list, like Hamill’sstayed online.

USA TODAY has also reached out to Hamill and another user who shared the post for comment.

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No state-level book bans in Florida

HB1467, an education bill, passed the state legislature earlier this year and was signed into law by DeSantis. It allows parents to review and challenge all educational materials, including books. The law also sets term limits for school board members, creates screening requirements for school materials, and requires districts to hold meetings related to educational materials in public.

Florida does not issue statewide bans on specific books, DeSantis publicist Bryan Griffin told USA TODAY in an email. Instead, under the new law, “the state sets content guidelines, and local school districts are responsible for enforcing them,” he said.

These content guidelines requiring specialists to review reading material and banning reading material that is “inappropriate for the grade level and age group for which the material is used” or that contains “pornographic content”.

Claims that the books shown in the image are banned in Florida are false, Griffin said.

“The image is fake – as far as I can see it’s just a completely fictional listing,” he said.

USA TODAY also found no credible source for the list.

Additionally, at least five of the books on the list are recognized as exemplary of a “rich literary tradition” in a guide to current state educational standards for the English language arts, including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “1984,” “Of Mice and Men,” “The Call of the Wild,” and “Lord of the Flies,” as Griffin noted.

Fact check:Florida State Civics Teacher Training Seminar Was Voluntary

Our opinion: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that an image shows a list of banned books in Florida schools and libraries as FALSE. Florida has not issued any statewide book bans, a spokesperson for DeSantis told USA TODAY. Additionally, several books on the list have been recommended by the Florida Department of Education in a guide for educators.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Associated Press, August 22, Florida Didn’t Ban ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Fake Listing Suggests
  • Bryan Griffin, August 23, email exchange with USA TODAY
  • Randi Weingarten, August 24, email statement to USA TODAY
  • Florida Department of Education, accessed August 23, BEST Standards: English Language Arts
  • Florida State Legislature, Accessed August 24, Florida Statute 1006.28: Early Learning – 20 Education Code
  • Florida Senate, Accessed August 17, 2022 Bill Summaries – CS/HB 1467 — K-12 Education

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About Stuart M. McFarland

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