Letters to the Editor | May 31, 2023

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An Effective Ban?

“Banned in Florida, read in Gaithersburg” (May 25) refers to books banned in Duval County, Fla. The article misrepresents the situation. Duval County purchased books in 2022 and hadn’t had time to review them for age appropriateness as of earlier this spring. Thus the books were restricted temporarily. The “banning” label comes about because PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans classifies all books restricted even temporarily to be on the “Banned Books” list.
Martin Weiss, Potomac

Your article, “Banned in Florida, read in Gaithersburg,” claims that 176 books were banned in Duval County, Fla., public schools. The 14-paragraph article refers to the “banning” of books at least seven times. However, nowhere does it mention that Duval County disputes this claim.

A simple Google search reveals reports on local Florida news sites stating that according to Duval County, none of these books has been banned. Rather, this set of 176 books is undergoing review to determine whether these books are appropriate for public school libraries, and for what ages. Did WJW make any effort to contact Duval County to get their side of the story? I would like to think that the Washington Jewish Week tries to be fair and impartial, and provide both sides of disputed issues. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.
Janet Ammerman, Chevy Chase

Editor’s note:
In its reporting last December, JTA noted that 179 books, including “Chik Chak Shabbat,” had been purchased by Duval County and then held from students for 15 months. At that point, “speech activist group PEN America published a report on banned books in the United States. PEN’s report alleged Duval County had ‘effectively banned’ the books,” JTA reported. “One month later, the district released many of them, including ‘Chik Chak Shabbat,’ to students.”

https://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/enewsletter/

Duval County Public Schools spokesperson Tracy Pierce told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “The district will always take the time necessary to make sure the resources we provide for our students are appropriate for each grade level and meet the requirements of state statute.”

That explanation was insufficient for the Florida Freedom to Read Project, “which filed Freedom Of Information Act requests in an effort to get the district to disclose its reasoning for reviewing the books,” JTA wrote.

“We argue there was never a reason to remove the entire collection of books,” the group told JTA. “No one in the community complained about what their child was reading in their K-5 classroom.” ■

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