Numerous major media outlets quickly seized on a story claiming that a Florida school had “banned” or “restricted” access to a poem, but according to a message sent to school parents and obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation, the book is accessible to “all students.”
The Associated Press, USA Today, NPR, Politico, The New York Times, CNN and the Guardian ran headlines claiming a school within Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) had “banned,” “block[ed]” and “restrict[ed] access” to “The Hill We Climb,” a poem read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, after a parent complained it contained “hate messages.” However, it appears elementary school students can still access the book; MDCPS sent a letter Wednesday, obtained by the DCNF, that informed parents that though the poem had been moved from the elementary school section to the middle school section, the poem is still accessible to “all” students.
“Recently, there has been media coverage regarding one of the books in our collection entitled The Hill We Climb,” the message read. “This text was reviewed and placed in the middle grades area of our school media center. As an additional point of information, The Hill We Climb is classified as Young Adult in Titlewave by Follet and categorized as Middle Grades in Accelerated Reader. However, to be clear, even though The Hill We Climb is located in the middle grades area of our media center, it remains accessible to all students.”
Prior to the Wednesday statement, the school district clarified in a tweet Tuesday that the book had not been “banned” or “removed” from any schools.
The origin of the news story appears to be a Miami Herald report, based on documents obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, which said that elementary school students’ access to the poem was restricted.
Nowhere in the documents does it say that the poem was ever banned, or its access was ever restricted. Instead, the documents merely say that the poem was deemed “educational” and its vocabulary was “of value” for middle school students, and would be placed under the older age group’s section of the library. There does not appear to be any evidence for the assertion that the poem was ever banned.
Politico included the school district’s original tweet and issued a correction clarifying that the poem was not “outright banned.” USA Today wrote that the poem was now only available to middle school students, but included the school district’s original tweet.
The AP wrote that the poem had been placed on a “restricted list” and that the school district said the poem is available to middle school students.
The Guardian’s headline states that the poem was “ban[ned]” and that it “was removed for reading by elementary school children.”
More outlets spread the false version…
CNN was pretty much the only major outlet that had an accurate headline and got the facts right.
And then you wonder why no one trusts the press?
They actively and consistently spread misinformation. pic.twitter.com/NmWrAIKQAW
— AG (@AGHamilton29) May 24, 2023
The book was deemed more age-appropriate for older students after a parent of a student at Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school within the district, challenged the poem stating it was “not educational and have (sic) indirectly hate messages,” and would “cause confusion and indoctrinate students,” according to documents released by the the Florida Freedom to Read Project.
The parent challenged four additional books and poems, though the school district’s materials-review panel decided to not completely remove the material, a Florida Freedom to Read Project report stated.
“So they ban my book from young readers, confuse me with Oprah, fail to specify what parts of my poetry they object to, refuse to read any reviews, and offer no alternatives … Unnecessary book bans like these are on the rise, and we must fight back,” Amanda Gorman, the author of the poem, said in a tweet.
The Associated Press, USA Today, NPR, Politico, The New York Times and CNN did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments a Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesperson made to The Washington Post.
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