District Sued After Restricting Access to Penguins' Story

Florida district keeps book about two male penguins and a chick from youngest students
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2023 3:54 PM CDT
Students Who Want to Read Penguins' Story Join School Suit
This photo provided by Simon & Schuster shows the cover of authors Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell's book, "And Tango Makes Three."   (AP Photo/Simon & Schuster)

Florida's restrictions on gender identity and sexual orientation as classroom subject matter are being challenged by the authors of a book about penguins—and students who want to read it. The Lake County school board decided last year to prevent students in kindergarten through third grade from having access to And Tango Makes Three. The 2005 book tells the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo that formed a nontraditional family unit when they adopted and raised an orphaned penguin chick. A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, six students, and the students' parents contends that decision violates the First Amendment, NBC News reports.

The award-winning picture book is intended for readers 4 to 8 years old. Other school districts around the country have pulled it after receiving objections, per the New York Times. The central Florida school board said its decision was based on the state's Parental Rights in Education law, which opponents label the "Don't Say Gay" mandate. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a more sweeping version last month that, among other restrictions, prohibits instruction in sexual orientation or gender identity in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The suit says the book was pulled for ideological and political reasons, which violates "the authors' right to freedom of expression" and the "students' right to receive information." The authors said they want to battle censorship and stand up for everyone's right to read "a heartwarming story of difference, acceptance, and love." Student plaintiffs are quoted in the suit as saying they want to learn about a family structure they might someday create. One said he wants to learn about the protagonists because he wants to grow up to be an "animal doctor." School board representatives did not immediately comment on the lawsuit. (Read more book ban stories.)

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