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- The books at a Florida middle school were not banned. The school was "weeding" out the books because they were out of date.
An employee at a Florida middle school pulled out her phone to document waist-high boxes of books in the school’s hallway. She said these were books banned by the state of Florida.
"I just want to show you something, because the state just came last week and decided what books were appropriate or inappropriate," the technology specialist said.
She and two security guards picked up several books, including the titles "Hate Groups" and "Black Eagles: African Americans in Aviation."
"These are boxes of books waiting to go out," the woman said.
The video was posted across Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. The Instagram video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
The video gained attention as Florida school districts are adjusting to a new law that gives parents more power to challenge books available in schools. Exact numbers are hard to pin down, but the state said at least 175 books were removed from schools in 2022. PEN America, which tracks and opposes book bans, has a higher count that factors in challenges and temporary removals.
But what was captured at McNicol Middle School in Hollywood, Florida, was not related.
Officials from Broward County Public Schools and the Broward Teachers Union told PolitiFact that the books in the video were not being banned or challenged. Rather, they were taken out because they are outdated, a process the American Library Association calls "weeding."
"The books in question were not removed at the direction of the state," said John Sullivan, chief communications and legislative affairs officer for Broward County Public Schools.
Sullivan said that 89% of the books at McNicol were removed because they were more than 15 years old and out of compliance with an agreement the school board made in 2000 to provide each student with equal access to the current curriculum. The average publication year of the books at McNicol was 1997, Sullivan said.
This year’s "weeding" coincides with the renovation of the media center.
Anna Fusco, the Broward Teachers Union’s president, told PolitiFact that the school worker who filmed the video was mistaken about the pulled books.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. was not happy about the original video. He tweeted, "Another example of the book ban hoax! Broward County has confirmed to me that this is simply an end-of-year book inventory. It has nothing to do with vetting any books. This video is completely false and a sad attempt to disrupt our educational environment."
Although the books at McNicol aren’t banned, that doesn’t mean censorship-related book removals are not happening in other Florida schools. Recently, a school in Miami-Dade County moved "The Hill We Climb," written by poet Amanda Gorman, from the elementary student section to middle school shelves after one parent complained, limiting its access to younger kids.
Social media posts said a video showed boxes of books that were being banned by the DeSantis administration.
School district and state officials said the video showed books that were being "weeded out" at McNicol Middle School in Hollywood, Florida — a common library practice to ensure material is current.
The video made inaccurate claims about why the books were being taken out of the library. We rate this claim False.
Instagram post, May 22, 2023
TikTok post, May 22, 2023
Twitter post, May 22, 2023
American Library Association, Collection maintenance and weeding, accessed May 31, 2023
Broward Schools, Citizens concerned about our children settlement agreement and release, Aug. 1, 2000
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Twitter post, May 22, 2023
PolitiFact, Amanda Gorman poem moved to middle school shelves in one library, not banned in Miami-Dade County, May 31, 2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis administration press release, March 8, 2023
PEN America, Banned in the USA: State laws supercharge book suppression in schools, April 20, 2023
TikTok video, May 23, 2023
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