Thursday, 1 Jun 2023

School removes poem read at Joe Biden's inauguration after parent complaint

An elementary school in Florida has removed a copy of ‘The Hill We Climb,’ the poem Amanda Gorman read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Gorman, then 22, made history on January 20, 2021 by becoming the youngest poet to read their work at a presidential inauguration.

But a committee at Miami-Dade Public Schools decided that Gorman’s poem was inappropriate for elementary school-aged children after a parent submitted a complaint against it.

Documents obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project (FFRP) show that the complaint was made in March by a single parent named Daily Salinas.

In the complaint, Salinas incorrectly identifies the author of the poem for Oprah Winfrey. It is not clear why the complainant made this mistake, but the most popular edition of Gorman’s poem was published with a forward written by Winfrey.

The reason Salinas gave for objecting to the material was that it ‘is not educational and have indirectly hate messages [sic].’

The form also asks the parent ‘are you aware of professional reviews on this material?’ Salinas responds: ‘I don’t need it.’

The second book about Cuba, a photo essay simply titled ‘Cuban Kids,’ was not given a reason for objection other than ‘indoctrination.’

The school district ultimately decided to keep ‘Countries in the News: Cuba’ on the elementary school’s shelves. ‘Cuban Kids’ was moved to the middle school section.

Miami-Dade Public Schools stated that Gorman’s poem ‘was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.’

However, Gorman and the FFRP have disputed this response. They pointed out that the challenged books are now inaccessible to elementary school students.

‘A school book ban is any action taken against a book that leaves access to a book restricted or diminished,’ Gorman said. ‘This decision of moving my book from its original place, taken after one parent complained, diminishes the access elementary schoolers would have previously had to my poem.’

The FFRP also noted that some of the moved books were written for young readers – not middle school students. ‘The books we’re talking about: one is intended for grades K-3, two are intended for grades 3-6, and the last is Amanda Gorman’s historic, inaugural poem delivered to an audience of all ages,’ they said.

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