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DeSantis appears to back woman who led Amanda Gorman poem school ban

The Guardian logo The Guardian 5/26/2023 Richard Luscombe in Miami
Photograph: Chris duMond/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Chris duMond/Getty Images

Ron DeSantis on Friday appeared to defend a woman who got Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem The Hill We Climb removed from a Miami school, even though she has attended events alongside white supremacist and far-right groups.

The Republican Florida governor, who entered the race for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination with a botched launch on Twitter on Wednesday, said parents such as Daily Salinas were saving children from political ideology “the left [is] trying to jam in” to schools.

Related: Mem Fox book Guess What? banned in Florida county under Ron DeSantis bill

“They don’t want the parents involved in education because they view you as an impediment to their ideological agenda,” DeSantis told the Florida parent educators association homeschool convention in Orlando.

“They view you as an impediment to their ability to indoctrinate kids with their beliefs and their agendas. I’m sorry, I choose our beliefs as parents over the beliefs of the ideological left.

“We want parents to be armed with the ability to make sure their kids are in a safe environment, and yet you have narrative, and you have the left trying to jam this in.”

Salinas, a parent of two children at the Bob Graham education center in Miami Lakes, who has been photographed attending rallies by the neo-fascist Proud Boys group, admitted she had read only “snippets” of several books she sought to have banned from the campus.

They include the ABCs of Black History, poetry by Langston Hughes and books on Cuba, all of which she has criticized for “indirect hate messages”, references to critical race theory and gender indoctrination.

Salinas also posted antisemitic memes on Facebook – for which she later apologized.

“I’m not an expert. I’m not a reader. I’m not a book person. I’m a mom involved in my children’s education,” Salinas told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a statement.

Salinas is also aligned with Moms for Liberty, a rightwing activist group committed to the removal from the nation’s classrooms of books relating to sex education, LGBTQ+ rights and racism in American history.

In his speech on Friday, DeSantis alluded to coverage of the removal of Gorman’s work from the school’s elementary school library, a decision made by the Miami-Dade school district following a single complaint, from Salinas, as a “ridiculous poem hoax” fomented by what he called the leftwing “legacy media”.

“This is some book of poems, I never heard of it, I had nothing to do with any of this, that was in an elementary school library and the school or the school district determined that was more appropriate to be in the middle school library. So they moved it,” he said.

“These legacy media outlets are … trying to create a political narrative that is totally divorced from the facts and if they’re going to do something like this ridiculous poem hoax and actually put that out there and think that you’re going to believe it, they’re insulting your intelligence and our country.”

DeSantis, who is trailing far behind former president Donald Trump in the race for the Republican 2024 nomination, repeated the falsehood that no books had been banned from Florida’s schools.

“The media, when they talk about ‘book ban’, understand that is a hoax. They are creating a false narrative,” he said.

Yet in April, the writers’ organization PEN America that has been tracking public school book bans for two years, produced a report showing Florida was one of the most prolific states for educational book bans, with 357 separate bans across 12 school districts in the first half of the current school year.

Nationwide, the group recorded 1,477 book bans, with 20% attributed to complaints from Moms for Liberty.

“These groups pressured districts to remove books without following their own policies, even in some cases, removing books without reading them,” the report said.

“That trend has continued in the 2022-23 school year, but it has also been supercharged by a new source of pressure: state legislation.”

This month the Guardian reported on the harmful impact on Florida’s teachers of a range of new education laws introduced by DeSantis, including vague legislation without defined criteria that requires school districts to remove “inappropriate” material from campus libraries.


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