Florida School District Faces Backlash for Restricting Access to Amanda Gorman’s Poem “The Hill We Climb” and Part of Larger Trend of Book Banning

A Florida school district has faced backlash after a parent complained about the inclusion of Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” in an elementary school library.[0] The school district responded by restricting access to the poem for elementary school students, but it remains available in the middle school section of the media center. Gorman, who was the national youth poet laureate at the time of the inauguration, wrote the poem after the Capitol insurrection in January 2021.[1] The move to restrict access to the poem has been criticized as a violation of students’ right to free speech and thought.

The Florida school district’s decision to restrict access to “The Hill We Climb” is part of a larger trend of book banning in the state. According to PEN America, at least 175 books have been banned in Florida as of March 2023.[0] The nonprofit recently filed a lawsuit against a Florida school district for violating the First Amendment by removing books that discuss race, racism, and LGBTQ identities from school libraries. The lawsuit comes amid a push by Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, to allow the censorship and challenging of books based on whether they are appropriate for children in schools.

Gorman has been vocal about her disappointment with the decision to restrict access to her poem, stating that “robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.” She has also criticized the fact that many of the books being banned are by “queer and non-white voices.”

The decision to restrict access to “The Hill We Climb” has sparked a larger conversation about censorship in schools and the importance of providing students with access to diverse voices and perspectives. Critics argue that limiting students’ exposure to certain ideas and perspectives is not only a violation of their rights but also hinders their ability to think critically and engage with the world around them.

In response to the controversy, Gorman’s publisher, Penguin Random House, joined PEN America and several authors of banned books in filing a lawsuit against the Escambia County School District in northern Florida over its removal and restriction of books related to race or LGBTQ identity from school libraries.

Overall, the move to restrict access to “The Hill We Climb” highlights the ongoing battle over censorship and the importance of protecting students’ right to free speech and thought. As Gorman stated, “together, this is a hill we won’t just climb, but a hill we will conquer.[2]

0. “Florida parent tried to ban Amanda Gorman’s poetry from school” Business Insider, 24 May. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/amanda-gormans-poetry-florida-parent-ban-school-2023-5

1. ““The Hill We Climb”: Why Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem was restricted by a Florida school” Vox.com, 24 May. 2023, https://www.vox.com/politics/2023/5/24/23736215/florida-book-ban-amanda-gorman-the-hill-we-climb

2. “Florida School Pulls Poem Read at Joe Biden’s Inauguration” TIME, 24 May. 2023, https://time.com/6282208/a-florida-school-has-pulled-the-poem-read-at-joe-bidens-inauguration

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