Prominent Poet Laments ‘Ban’ on Her Inaugural Poem by Florida School

One problem with the poet’s claim — it isn’t true.

AP/Patrick Semansky, file
American poet Amanda Gorman recites a poem during the Inauguration of President Biden on January 20, 2021. AP/Patrick Semansky, file

A prominent American poet, Amanda Gorman, has riled up liberals across the country by falsely claiming that the poem she read at President Biden’s inauguration in 2021 has been banned by an elementary school in Florida.

In a public letter posted to Twitter, the 25-year-old Ms. Gorman — the youngest poet to ever read at a presidential inauguration — claimed that a book that features one of her poems, “The Hill We Climb,” was banned by an elementary school at Miami Lakes, Florida. “I’m gutted,” Ms. Gorman wrote. “Robbing children of the right to find their voices is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.”

Ms. Gorman posted a copy of the complaint that led to her poem being banned, which was filed by an unnamed parent in late March. The handwritten complaint stated in broken English that a book containing the poem was “not educational” and carried “indirect” hate messages.

“Unnecessary bookbans like these are on the rise and we must fight back,” Ms. Gorman said. “And let’s be clear: most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves. The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white authors.”

She ended her screed with a plea for people to donate to PEN America, a free-speech nonprofit based in New York that has been fundraising in recent months to fight what it believes to be an epidemic of book bans across the United States. As of Wednesday morning, Ms. Gorman had raised more than $50,000 for PEN America.

The social media post generated howls of protests from very online liberals and spawned dozens of headlines in American media outlets repeating her claim that the poem had been banned by the school. In an appearance on MSNBC, PEN America’s chief executive, Suzanne Nossel, blamed Governor DeSantis for creating an “enabling environment for book bans” in the state of Florida.

“There’s an election on the horizon and there’s a notion that certain people can get energized and motivated by this and they are going to play to that segment and rile them up and it’s up to us to mobilize the rest — the majority,” she said.

The only problem with the narrative being pushed by Ms. Gorman and other activists, however, is that it isn’t true. After the uproar, the Miami-Dade school district released a statement saying that it felt “compelled to clarify that the book titled, ‘The Hill We Climb’ by Amanda Gorman was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.”

The district explained to the Miami Herald, which first reported the incident, that following the parent’s complaint a panel consisting of teachers, administrators, a guidance counselor, and a library media specialist at the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes decided that Ms. Gorman’s book and a handful of others were more appropriate for middle-school-aged students than elementary ones and were placed on a different shelf in the same library.

On Wednesday morning, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, extended an invitation to Ms. Gorman to visit South Florida. “Your poem inspired our youth to become active participants in their government and to help shape the future,” she said in a post on Twitter. “We want you to come to Miami-Dade to do a reading of your poem.”

Following the uproar, Ms. Gorman also attempted to explain the discrepancy between her original complaint and subsequent reports about the ban. “A school book ban is any action taken against a book that leaves access to a book restricted or diminished,” she said. “This decision of moving my book from its original place, taken after one parent complained, diminishes the access elementary schoolers would have previously had to my poem.”


The New York Sun

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