Florida father tried to remove ‘Arthur’ book from schools because it could ‘damage souls’

Complaint revolved around mention of spin the bottle

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 02 August 2023 20:54 BST
PEN America, Penguin Random House Sue Florida School District Over Book Bans

A Florida school district will put a book from the popular Arthur series back on the shelves, despite complaints for a local activist that the stories about the cartoon aardvark “damage souls.”

Clay County told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that Arthur’s Birthday would remain in the district’s libraries, even though a man named Bruce Friedman had taken issue with one of the scenes in the book where the kissing game spin the bottle is mentioned.

Arthur will go back on the shelves,” the district said.

Earlier this month, Mr Friedman, who regularly challenges books and is part of the conservative No Left Turn in Education organisation, challenged the book.

“Protect Children! It is not appropriate to discuss ‘spin the bottle’ with elementary school children,” he wrote in his complaint against the district.

In the book, Arthur plans a birthday party for himself and his classmates, and spin the bottle is mentioned.

The Florida Freedom to Read Project has argued the book is completely innocent and “is about being inclusive of all friends and not only inviting boys or girls (based on your gender) to your birthday party.”

All told, 45 books in the district were challenged ahead of the 2023-2024 school year, including well-known titles like Carrie by Stephen King and Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, about half of which were struck from libraries.

Last year, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial law requiring public schools to have media specialists review their library selections, publish lists of what’s available, and give parents greater ability to challenge selections. Teachers in Florida schools can be hit with felony charges if non-sanctioned books appear in their libraries.

The law, paired with 2021’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ by critics, is seen by critics as part of a larger attempt to reduce representation and inclusivity of people of colour and LGBTQ+ people in state schools.

PEN America has described the measures collectively as part of a “concerted campaign” taking place across the country “to ban books and instructional materials containing ‘objectionable’ content. Often, that content amounts to little more than an acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ identities or the existence of racism or sexism.”

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