Amanda Gorman’s Inauguration Poem Banned for Elementary Students at Florida School

"I'm gutted," Gorman said in a statement


A Florida school has blocked elementary-age students from accessing the poem that Amanda Gorman recited at the 2021 presidential inauguration after a parent’s complaint. 

The poem, “The Hill We Climb,” is one of four titles that will be only available to middle school-age students at the Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school in Miami Lakes, after a review by school officials deemed the materials were not age appropriate for younger kids following the complaint. 

The decision was first reported by the Florida Freedom to Read Project and the Miami Herald.

Daily Salinas, a parent of two students who attend the school, initially challenged the poem and four books in March, according to the Herald. The books Salinas criticized include “The ABCs of Black History,” “Cuban Kids,” “Countries in the News Cuba,” and “Love to Langston,” the newspaper reported.

Copies of her complaint shared online by the FFRP show Salinas believes Gorman’s poem “is not educational and have indirect hate messages [sic]” and is intended to “cause confusion and indoctrinate students.” It also falsely said the poem was written by Oprah Winfrey.

Gorman, 25, said in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter that she was “gutted” by the poem’s removal and argued that it amounted to “robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature.”

She also noted that similar book and literature bans in schools and libraries have increased in the last two years.

“And let’s be clear: most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves,” Gorman wrote in the statement. “The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white voices.”

Gorman recited, “The Hill We Climb,” during President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. In 2017, she was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate.

Salinas also objected to “Love to Langston,” a book of poems about the life Black American writer Langston Hughes, because of “critical race theory,” the complaints show. 

The books on Cuba, she believed, were meant to indoctrinate children, noting that “Cuba is a communist country,” the filings indicate.

According to the FFRP, all books were also challenged for “gender theory.”

Salinas told the Herald on Monday she is “not for eliminating or censoring any books,” but that she wants appropriate materials in the school and for students “to know the truth” about Cuba.

The Herald reported that a committee of school officials reviewed all five titles and determined that just one, “Countries in the News: Cuba,” was “balanced and age appropriate in its wording and presentation.”

The committee decided the four other books and poems were “more appropriate” for middle schoolers. One title, “The ABCs of Black History,” was written for children ages 5 and up.

A representative for the district was not immediately available for comment, but the district said Tuesday in a Twitter post that Gorman’s poem “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 said.

Stephana Ferrell, director of research and insight at the FFRP, told the Herald the latest incident in Miami-Dade County exemplifies a growing trend to rework what materials are classified as age appropriate “especially regarding books that address ethnicities, marginalized communities, racism or our history of racism.”

“Books written for students grades K-5 are being pushed to middle school [libraries and] out of reach for the students they were intended for,” she said. 

While the books are not being banned outright, she argued, “they’re banned for the students they were intended for.”

Parents in Florida have gained leverage to challenge what educational materials are available to students over the past year.

The Republican-led legislature has ushered in a series of new regulations, with rules focusing on what lawmakers contend could be potentially inappropriate and sexual content available in schools.

Regulations now bar teachers from providing lessons that could make children feel guilty about their race because of historical misdeeds. Other rules require schools to have trained media specialists evaluate each book to ensure it is age-appropriate and free of "pornographic" content.

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