Florida school curbs access to poem read at Biden inauguration
published : 25 May 2023 at 07:45
MIAMI - A Florida school has restricted access for students to the poem "The Hill We Climb," read at President Joe Biden's inauguration before a live audience of nearly 34 million people, the poet says.
Amanda Gorman, just 22 when she read her work to widespread acclaim from the Capitol steps on January 21, 2021, said in a statement late Tuesday that she was "gutted" by the move to curb her work.
"Because of one parent's complaint, my inaugural poem, 'The Hill We Climb,' has been banned from an elementary school in Miami-Dade County, Florida," she posted on Twitter.
"Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech," she said.
Governor Ron DeSantis, a right-wing hardliner who launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday, has made a name by attacking what he calls "woke" culture. Measures include laws passed to curtail instruction on sex education and gender identity in schools and to eradicate diversity programs in state-funded universities.
Scores of books have been removed from the state's school library shelves in recent months, deemed inappropriate for children by conservative parents and school boards.
Gorman's poem was targeted by the school, the Bob Graham Education Center, after the mother of two students complained. The institution banned the poem in its elementary school, moving it to the library for children over 11.
The poem was a call for unity and hope in divided America, and Gorman's reading during the live television event, watched by an estimated 33.8 million people, made her a literary star -- all the more so because she is Black and was speaking in the wake of Donald Trump's polarizing presidency.
A copy of what Gorman said was the parent's complaint showed the parent objecting because the poem is "not educational and have indirectly hate messages."
Answering a question on the official form if the complainant was aware of professional reviews, the parent wrote, "I don't need it." She also said the aim of the poem, in her view, was to "cause confusion and indoctrinate students."
Asked about the incident, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden "was very proud to have her (Gorman) at his inauguration. Banning books is censorship -- period."
Gorman was the youngest poet ever to perform at a US presidential inauguration and also the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate.
News of the library restriction came a week after publisher Penguin Random House and writers' group PEN America filed a lawsuit against a Florida school district over the removal of books from public school libraries that address race and LGBTQ issues.