Florida has taken to affixing ‘warning’ labels on school books

A Florida school district has taken matters into their own hands and are affixing ‘warning’ labels on books.

“If you can’t ban it, stick a warning label on it”  is smelling a lot like the day when the PMRC took to the courts over 15 songs that they considered the most offensive at the time, which gave birth to the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” sticker that we are familiar with today.

It seems as though history is repeating itself, as a school district in Florida has adopted the method of sticking ‘warning’ labels to books, in a bid to caution students and parents, if a book discusses queerness or racial issues. The label now appears on more than 100 physical books in Collier County Public Schools as well as their online catalog.

warning on books
Credit: NBC News

Classics like, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, are among the books that have been targeted as being worthy of caution, along side titles Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.

The warning label reads: “This Advisory Notice shall serve to inform you that this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students. This book will also be identified in the Destiny system with the same notation. The decision as to whether this book is suitable or unsuitable shall be the decision of the parent(s) who has the right to oversee his/her child’s education consistent with state law.”

The Florida Citizens Alliance, a group that recently supported the state’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, took matters into their own hands, and highlighted a list of 112 books that they claim “contain sexually explicit and age-inappropriate content,” to the District. 

Stephana Ferrell, co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project, shared that she had a phone call from Elizabeth Alves, the associate superintendent of teaching and learning for Collier County Public Schools, who defended the decision to adhere to the warning labels as “a compromise.”

Discussing the matter with NBC, Ferrell said, “It’s unfortunate because this is a literary work. The sticker that they chose to put on there, the language that they chose, would make any reader who would otherwise pick up the book based on the cover and the description, it would make them think twice about reading the book.”