JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Florida is leading the nation in book bans in schools according to a new report conducted by PEN America.
1,406 instances of books being removed from Florida school shelves were documented by PEN America over a one-year stretch.
This year, the Sunshine State surpassed Texas as the state with the most instances of banned books and accounted for 40 percent of all books banned nationwide.
“Florida has really active pressures at play right now that are squeezing school districts and pressuring school districts to remove classroom and school libraries,” said Kasey Meehan, who authored the report.
The report found nearly half of books banned nationwide included themes of violence.
Sexual encounters, race and LGBTQ topics were among other common themes..
“And what we see this year is that over 75 percent of all the books that have been banned are young adult books,” said Meehan.
Meehan noted one thing that makes Florida unique is the fact state law allows anyone to challenge as many books as they want for any reason.
“Serial book challengers are having an outsized role,” said Meehan.
In Florida, more than a third of all challenges have come from Clay County’s Bruce Friedman.
“They’ve removed 192 separate titles from this community’s schools. 42 schools until recently. They’re all porn,” said Friedman in an interview with Action News Jax in August.
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In that interview, Friedman defended his use of book challenges, pointing to his success rate of roughly 50 percent.
“I’ve only been victorious, if you want to call it that, when I’ve been able to prove that the book violates law. So, you don’t like that, take that up with your legislature. I’m just the guy shining the light on it,” said Friedman.
Meehan does hope Floridians take up the issue with their legislators and encourage them to reverse course on what she sees as government censorship.
“We hope that this report that this report continues to activate public will in opposing book bans can support and provide some additional data to the folks on the ground who are really organizing to resist and push back and uphold the freedom to read for students,” said Meehan.
Texas, Missouri, Utah and Pennsylvania were also placed on the list for most banned books, but all four combined barely surpassed the number of bans documented in Florida.