Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Escambia Schools Over Book Bans

May 17, 2023

Penguin Random House, the world’s largest trade book publisher, and PEN America, a “free expression organization”, have filed a federal lawsuit against the Escambia County School District over the removal of books from school libraries.

The lawsuit alleges Escambia County schools have violated the First Amendment by setting out to remove or restrict access to books discussing race, racism, and LGBTQ identities, against the recommendations of the district review committee charged with evaluating book challenges.

“Books have the capacity to change lives for the better, and students in particular deserve equitable access to a wide range of perspectives. Censorship, in the form of book bans like those enacted by Escambia County, are a direct threat to democracy and our constitutional rights,” said Nihar Malaviya, CEO of Penguin Random House. “We stand by our authors, their books, and the teachers, librarians, and parents who champion free expression. We are proud to join forces with our longtime partner PEN America.”

PEN American and Penguin Random House are joined by several authors in the suit, including Ashley Hope Pérez. She is author of Out of Darkness, one of the books restricted by the school district after a challenge was filed by Northview High School language arts teacher Vicki Baggett. Baggett objected to the book due to “graphic depictions of abuse and sexual scenes”.

“Young readers in Escambia schools and across the nation deserve a complete and honest education, one that provides them with full access in libraries to a wide range of literature that reflects varied viewpoints and that explores the diversity of human experiences,” said Pérez. “As a former public high school English teacher, I know firsthand how important libraries are. For many young people, if a book isn’t in their school library, it might as well not exist.”


39 Responses to “Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Escambia Schools Over Book Bans”

  1. David Huie Green on May 24th, 2023 10:54 am

    “Homosexuality is clearly a sin.”

    Actually, it isn’t. It is a tendency to commit homosexual acts which it lists as sins.

    Heterosexuality is not a sin even though it has led to sinful acts such as adultery and fornication and what Jesus clearly spelled out as being as bad as adultery: lust, a sin many of us have committed a time or two.

    David a sinner saved by grace

  2. David Huie Green on May 24th, 2023 10:46 am

    “Jesus didn’t say a single word about LGBT people. He did say a lot about loving your neighbors and treating them with kindness.”

    While true, the words of Jesus are not the only words found in the Bible and some of those others call for killing adulterers, and other sinners. It also includes reports of people who failed to obey those instructions.

    David for clarity

  3. Bob on May 20th, 2023 10:07 am


    The Bible isn’t banned. Maybe you should try reading it.

    Jesus didn’t say a single word about LGBT people. He did say a lot about loving your neighbors and treating them with kindness.

  4. Give me a break on May 19th, 2023 9:15 pm

    Dear me there are some woefully uninformed people out there. Afraid of some Boogeyman rhetoric.

  5. Scott on May 19th, 2023 7:29 pm

    We all have rights. Yes, even us Christians. Keep the filth out of school libraries. Homosexuality is clearly a sin. This is clearly not a hate statement simply fact.

  6. Grandma on May 19th, 2023 9:19 am

    THIS is exactly why we need to change where parents’ tax dollars support education. Only those who have wealth are able to afford the private tuition. There should be options where single parents or families with low income could send their kids to a private school where the Government has NO SAY in what is or isn’t in the library!

  7. Lee on May 19th, 2023 8:05 am

    Keep Florida ignorant!

  8. mnon on May 19th, 2023 4:13 am

    Schools are just liberal indoctrination centers, I dunno why everyone is so shocked.

    Even one commenter said, “By the way, how many people who have commented so far have a 4-year college degree?”

    I’m sorry Robert, I don’t need a 4-year college degree to know what is morally right or wrong. Just because you have a 4-year degree or I should say infer you do, doesn’t give you or anyone the moral high ground.

  9. Stumpknocker on May 19th, 2023 3:56 am

    @ Bob, is the sky blue in your world? When was the last time you entered a school library? There’s no white supremacy books or anything like that. However there’s plenty of books of diversity for all readers. I’d like to see you get these books their banning and set down with the young children in your family and read them.

  10. Don cooper on May 18th, 2023 8:47 pm

    The way people are talking here, not banning books would require every library to have every book that was ever written.

  11. Frank on May 18th, 2023 7:53 pm

    Explained to you Bob… “Finding Alaska” wherein Miles and his girlfriend-of-one-day Lara engage in oral sex…. that is why…

  12. Devil fighting hard on May 18th, 2023 5:43 pm

    First they tried or did ban the bible now trying to sue for not having books about race, racism, and sex! Maybe these folks would read the Bible they’d understand but probably are the devil advocates.

  13. David Huie Green on May 18th, 2023 12:09 pm

    Freedom of speech does not require anyone to listen to that speech.

    Understand, I am not saying libraries should or should NOT limit their contents. I am saying that doing so does NOT violate The First Amendment.

    David for literacy

  14. No one on May 18th, 2023 11:23 am

    Not so sure I agree with book banning.
    What I do know though, is that there is FL statute 847.013 which says it is a misdemeanor to provide pornographic materials to a minor. Fines and jailtime, with increasing penalties for repeat offenses. How about we enforce that?

  15. wondering on May 18th, 2023 10:39 am

    The people who want the books banned are likely the same people who allow their children to have cell phones and social media where they do and see far worse than they will in any of these books.

  16. J-THE-G on May 18th, 2023 10:28 am

    It’s time for society too start encouraging being the classic standard for “normal” instead of being “different”. Way too much encouragement of this kind of hedonistic lifestyle now. No wonder the country is eroding.

  17. SMH on May 18th, 2023 9:12 am

    Has anyone here actually read any of the banned books? Or are you just going to parrot what you have heard or are told. Why not find out for yourself instead of jumping on the “book banning” bandwagon. And for those that say you can go to the library to check out these books…do it while you can, because those that are trying to ban books in schools will target libraries next. Knowledge is power…ignorance breeds fear.

  18. Dave on May 18th, 2023 8:16 am

    @Rational person
    How many Gender Studies jobs are available in your town? How many Race Baiting/Dysphoria jobs?
    Schools are in place to assist students in becoming productive members of society by giving them the skill sets to obtain a living wage. This way they can pay the taxes to fund the socialist agenda you are so fond of.
    Let kids be kids while they still can.
    You notice the ones pushing this lawsuit are the ones who monetarily benefit when libraries purchase the books. It has nothing to do with increasing your child’s test scores.
    @Robert Some of us have six or more years of education.

  19. mnon on May 18th, 2023 4:09 am

    Liberal indoctrination centers are all schools, and universities, designed to teach you nothing but oppression and ideologies the Federal Government wants so that you become dependent on them. Do you trust the same party that started the KKK to become this great eradicator of racism? LOL, that’s too funny! Even DeSantis can’t keep it out of schools, just look at the Florida teacher showing LGBTQ Disney movies to her class recently. Your kids are being brainwashed 6-8h a day 5 days a week, and more if they are in extracurricular activities. Big companies are being taken over by brainwashed college graduates and controlling your speech at work. The ones who do not see all this going on are what is wrong with the country, they have been brainwashed too, or perpetrators in the destruction of our social structure.

  20. Robert on May 18th, 2023 4:08 am

    By the way, how many people who have commented so far have a 4 year college degree?

  21. Bob on May 18th, 2023 2:27 am

    Explain to me why a book about two male penguins adopting an orphaned baby penguin is inappropriate for children.

    I’m all for banning pornography from schools, but this is ridiculous. Slaughterhouse Five? Perks of Being a Wallflower? Finding Alaska?

    This isn’t about protecting children. It’s about making sure children only have access to books that promote white, heteronormative, Evangelical beliefs.

  22. Lisa on May 18th, 2023 1:52 am

    If you check history, you will find that the book banners are NEVER ever the good guys..

  23. George on May 18th, 2023 12:06 am

    @do books,
    When you say saving children’s lives does that include the children in the womb?

  24. Frankly on May 17th, 2023 10:36 pm

    Pornography is not ok for kids. Anyone wanting kids to read it is demented! And if you question if it was pornography… I found it amazing that ALL major news outlets had to edit the news conference Gov Desantis presented these books material. Fight it all the way!

  25. TW on May 17th, 2023 10:36 pm

    “Books have the capacity to change lives for the better”. They also have the capacity to change lives for the worse or no? The left wants our kids minds and have proven they will use our constitution against us to have their way.

  26. AJ on May 17th, 2023 10:27 pm

    DeSantis and his cronies are FOREVER losers in court!

  27. Common sense on May 17th, 2023 9:52 pm

    Your government will fight to keep the Bible out of schools and fight to keep in books that are counter to traditional values….tells you all you need to know about our government.

  28. American on May 17th, 2023 9:36 pm

    These books have absolutely no business being in a school. Public library and online, sure. We didn’t grow up studying why someone wanted to be straight or identify why they was man or women. This is a sickness that people are letting get completely out of hand. Sure, use your first amendment and write and publish books on this it’s fine, but don’t forget there are other amendments that are also to be upheld. Keep this ideology out of the school system.

  29. Steve on May 17th, 2023 7:37 pm

    Filthy books and ones that divide should NOT be in a school library. The time when children are most susceptible to outside influence is when they are young.
    Being taught the basics is all that is needed. Any WORLDLY ideas and such should come from parents not teachers.
    And to those wanting to blame Republicans for doing this, its because you FORCED them to do it. Otherwise filth and perversion would be the rule of the day.
    Also they are not taking anything from you and the ability to seek out those books, just not doing it at a public school.
    But when you try to take guns for citizens that is a problem. No crime was committed and our CONSTITUTIONAL rights are being violated for infringing on them

  30. Rational person on May 17th, 2023 6:14 pm


    Students should not be taught about race and racism yet the foundation of this country was built on racism? Racial discrimination was present from the beginning of this country. In the trans- Atlantic slave trade were people just randomly designated slaves based on a random drawing? Were people considered 3/5ths of a person in voting based on a random drawing? We all know that certain people were denied freedoms, protections and forced into labor due to their race for hundreds of years since the founding of this country and even after slavery ended there were racial discriminations placed on natives, Asians and especially African Americans when it came to housing, citizenship status, consumer laws etc.

    To teach American history is to teach racism. The country of America was founded on Racism. If you do not teach about racism while teaching American history it is a fundamentally weak teaching.

    To not teach about sexual orientations and gender identities is also anti-history. Because certain people who were not straight males were also denied rights when it came to housing, land ownership, voting etc based on their identities and orientations. And it some states that discrimination is still legal. Including Florida.

    You don’t want sexual orientation, gender identities, race, sex-based oppression and racism taught in schools because you yourself are ashamed of American history. You know this country has been an exploitative sham since the beginning and you hate the fact that everyone but the delusional illegimate heirs(those who have not faced the discrimations outlined above) is waking up to the fact that these illegitimate heirs deserve no respect for the atrocities they have commit on others who may or may not have chosen to be here.

    Unintelligent clowns.

  31. New School Needed on May 17th, 2023 5:49 pm

    If I had the bucks, I’d open a non-religious managed private secular K-12 school in this county.

    Nothing but solid instruction, using a combination of tech and well educated instructors teaching students technology, global skills and multidisciplinary topics applying to trade, information management, environmental, finance, energy, medicine, engineered principles, all coupled with societal ethics coursework in concert with global and national ethnic diversity focusing on accomplishment and solving problems (as opposed to political outmaneuvering that is tearing society to shreds).

    Most parents would love to see a choice where education is actually the goal instead of trying to use public and religious schools to gain an upper hand by imposing narrow moral and religious ideals on their own children.

    I bet the graduates would be in very high demand.

  32. Hitch on May 17th, 2023 5:19 pm

    @Do Books Hurt Us
    Please explain what you consider “assault style weapons”….Just curious.

    Pretty sure a murderer can kill someone with any object…..book, gun, plastic wrap ….using any one of these items to kill another person would make that an “assault style weapon”

    I’m not afraid of books. I’m not even afraid of children reading certain books. I just don’t believe ALL books need to be in a school library just like certain books can’t be purchased at all bookstores.

  33. Employee on May 17th, 2023 4:55 pm

    Great news!

  34. CW on May 17th, 2023 4:52 pm


    I’m sorry but I disagree. There are many kids who have very bigoted and close minded parents who make them feel ashamed of who they are. Many do not have a very accepting home environment.

  35. Good! on May 17th, 2023 4:44 pm

    I’m glad it finally caught traction!
    Leave the books alone and actually worry about the pertinent problems!

  36. Guy Gerricault on May 17th, 2023 4:09 pm

    Banning books is weak.

  37. Jason on May 17th, 2023 3:57 pm

    Another frivolous lawsuit. The books arent banned from a persons access. If you want to read the book, feel free to go to any book store and buy a copy. Nothing requires our local school library to make such books available.

  38. Do Books Hurt Us on May 17th, 2023 3:54 pm

    Republicans banning books all over the Nation, but won’t budge an inch on banning assault style weapons. What is the old phrase republicans use when they don’t want to debate the issue. Books don’t kill people, people do, oh wait, that only applies to guns. Independent Voter, former Republican. Save our country and our kids.

  39. Neighbor on May 17th, 2023 3:32 pm

    The home is the place where kids need to be TAUGHT about Race, Racism and sex period. No place at any grade level should the school have a part in this. So take your Penguin Random House and PEN UNAmerican and don’t come out of the darkness.

    Big step towards improvement by the firing of the Superintendent