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Books about Black and Hispanic historical figures under review in Florida schools

Yalonda M. James/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — Thousands of books in Duval County schools in Florida are subject to review due to three state laws impacting certain subjects in education, including race, gender and sexual orientation, according to county officials.

The books are under review based on several laws that restrict classroom topics, including the Stop WOKE Act and the Parental Rights in Education law, which was called the “Don’t Say Gay” law by LGBTQ activists.

A report by the anti-censorship group PEN America claims specific titles under review include books about historical Black and Hispanic figures like Robert Clemente, a Puerto Rican baseball player who became a Major League Baseball icon despite facing racism and segregation in his career.

A book about Celia Cruz, a Cuban singer known as the “Queen of Salsa,” was also removed from shelves, PEN America found, as well as a book about Hank Aaron, a Black baseball player who holds the second-highest total of home runs in history and was outspoken against racial discrimination, was another removal.

A story about Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the court, was also reported to be under review by PEN America.

Duval County school officials have not yet responded to ABC News’ request for comment and have not confirmed which titles are under review.

House Bill 1467, which has also prompted book reviews, prohibits books that contain “pornographic” content or are “inappropriate.”

The “Stop WOKE” Act restricts lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and in the workplace, particularly anything that discusses privilege or oppression based on race. WOKE in the bill stands for “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees.”

The Parental Rights in Education law states instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” according to the bill’s language.

According to Duval County officials, the Florida Department of Education is training “all Florida schools districts to ‘err on the side of caution’ in determining if a book is developmentally appropriate for student use.” The county joins at least one other in heavily scrutinizing its book collection based on state laws.

Manatee County schools are also set to “remove or cover all materials that have not been vetted” in classrooms, according to a copy of the guidance previously obtained by ABC News.

Across the country, schools and libraries are facing challenges to books, predominantly affecting titles written by or about people of color and LGBTQ people.

Florida’s comes amid a growing movement against certain lessons or discussions concerning marginalized groups in Florida classrooms.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration have also recently rejected an AP African American studies course because it is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” according to state officials. His administration has also vowed to remove funding from diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education, as well as certain lessons on race.

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