Related topics

Florida didn’t ban ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ as fake list suggests

August 22, 2022 GMT
Flowers are placed on a statue of a girl reading Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," in memorial of Lee, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Monroeville, Ala. On Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts that falsely claimed Florida was banning the book in schools. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Flowers are placed on a statue of a girl reading Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," in memorial of Lee, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Monroeville, Ala. On Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts that falsely claimed Florida was banning the book in schools. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Flowers are placed on a statue of a girl reading Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," in memorial of Lee, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Monroeville, Ala. On Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts that falsely claimed Florida was banning the book in schools. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Flowers are placed on a statue of a girl reading Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," in memorial of Lee, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Monroeville, Ala. On Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts that falsely claimed Florida was banning the book in schools. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Flowers are placed on a statue of a girl reading Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," in memorial of Lee, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Monroeville, Ala. On Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, The Associated Press reported on posts that falsely claimed Florida was banning the book in schools. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

CLAIM: The state of Florida banned “To Kill a Mockingbird” in schools, along with a number of other popular titles on a “Banned Book List.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed that the state has not banned “To Kill a Mockingbird.” A school district in Florida’s Palm Beach County removed the title from school libraries earlier this year as part of a review, but later returned it, according to district documents. The “Banned Book List” shared across social media this week is also bogus, and includes many titles that aren’t banned in Florida, according to groups that track book bans and challenges.

THE FACTS: Florida hasn’t forced schools to stop teaching Harper Lee’s classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” despite misleading posts that amassed thousands of shares on social media over the weekend.

The false claim erupted after various social media users shared a list of book titles and said it showed books banned in Florida. “To Kill a Mockingbird” was on the list, as were other well-known titles including “A Wrinkle in Time,” “The Giver,” and “Of Mice and Men.”

Bryan Griffin, press secretary for Florida’s Republican governor, confirmed in several tweets that the claim was false.

“The State of Florida has not banned To Kill a Mockingbird,” Griffin tweeted on Sunday. “In fact, Florida RECOMMENDS the book in 8th grade.” The tweet linked to Florida’s state Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking, or BEST, standards, which include the book as a sample text for eighth grade students.

Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary for the governor, told The Associated Press in an email that there is no banned book list at the state level, and that the “Banned Book List” circulating online was fake.

“The state sets guidelines regarding content, and the local school districts are responsible for enforcing them,” Redfern said.

The Palm Beach County School District temporarily removed “To Kill a Mockingbird” from classrooms to review it earlier this year, but has since returned it, according to the Florida Freedom to Read Project. The group, which tracks book removals across Florida school districts, said its research did not find any other recent bans of the title in Florida schools, though it relies on documentation from the state’s school districts, which have not all responded in recent months.

“There is no way for us to say for sure that the title is still available in every district, but it definitely isn’t banned across the state,” said Stephana Ferrell, cofounder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project.

Tasslyn Magnusson, an independent researcher who tracks book banning attempts nationwide, also said she was not aware of any recent bans on “To Kill a Mockingbird” in Florida school districts. She said she viewed the widely shared “Banned Book List,” which didn’t match up with her own data, as an effort to scare people into paying more attention to book censorship.

In tweets debunking the false claim that Florida banned “To Kill a Mockingbird,” DeSantis’ press secretary pointed to Burbank Unified School District in California and claimed that this “progressive district” had banned the title in 2020.

That’s not quite accurate either, according to district Superintendent Matt Hill, who said his district has not banned any books. Instead, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a handful of other books are “no longer mandatory reading” after complaints about that book and four others in 2020 prompted a revision of the district’s required texts.

There have been hundreds of incidents of Florida public schools banning books in the past year, according to a report from PEN America, an advocacy group for writing professionals. The group warned in April that more books could be banned in Florida districts now that DeSantis has signed into law a bill that makes it easier for parents to challenge books and instructional materials they don’t approve.

Florida’s Department of Education earlier this year rejected dozens of math textbooks, arguing they contained questions and exercises based on Common Core or critical race theory. Opponents said the issues the state identified were not actual problems. Despite the state’s disapproval, under Florida law individual districts can still buy the texts if at least half their book spending is on approved material.

The state Department of Education and the Palm Beach County School District did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

___

This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.