PEN America and publisher Penguin Random House, as well as a few authors and parents, filed a federal law suit today against Florida’s Escambia County School District. The authors who joined the suit — all of whom have had their books either removed or restricted by the school board — are Sarah Brannen, David Levithan, George M. Johnson, Ashley Hope Pérez, and Kyle Lukoff.

The suit demands books that were taken out of school libraries be returned, stating that the removal of the books, which discuss LGBTQ+ and racial identities and racism, violates the First Amendment. The suit also states that the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution is being violated because the book ban disproportionately targets books by LGBTQ+ and non-white authors.

CEO of Random House, Nihar Malaviya, said, “Books have the capacity to change lives for the better, and students in particular deserve equitable access to a wide range of perspectives. Censorship, in the form of book bans like those enacted by Escambia County, are a direct threat to democracy and our constitutional rights. We stand by our authors, their books, and the teachers, librarians, and parents who champion free expression. We are proud to join forces with our longtime partner PEN America.”

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, also said “The freedom to read is guaranteed by the constitution. In Escambia County, state censors are spiriting books off shelves in a deliberate attempt to suppress diverse voices. In a nation built on free speech, this cannot stand.”

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.


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