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Greg Sergeant of the Washington Post reviews the decision in Florida to ban Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural poem, keeping it out of the reach of elementary age children. Librarians are just following orders, as DeSantis knew they would. He doesn’t need to name the books. Hyper-vigilant parents do his dirty work for him.

At this point, it should be obvious that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s culture-war directives are designed to encourage parents to indulge in book purges for sport. Precisely because removals have become so easy, lone right-wing actors are feverishly hunting for offending titles, getting them pulled from school libraries on absurdly flimsy grounds, sometimes by the dozens.

A new turn in the explosive saga involving the poem that Amanda Gorman read at President Biden’s inauguration underscores the point. DeSantis is now defending a Florida school’s decision to restrict access to “The Hill We Climb” — a move that has become a national controversy.

“It was a book of poems that was in an elementary school library,” DeSantis told a convention on Friday, though it was in fact one poem. DeSantis insisted the school district in question merely “moved it from the elementary school library to the middle school library,” and ripped “legacy media” for calling this a “ban,” complaining of a “poem hoax.”

That’s a shameless but revealing characterization of what happened. It’s true that Gorman’s poem was removed from the elementary school section of the library at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes and that access was preserved for middle school students. But this came in response to an objection from one parent.

The woman who complained about Amanda Gorman’s poem filled out a card. She thought the poem was written by Oprah Winfrey. She admitted that she had not read Gorman’s poem.

It turns out that Amanda Gorman’s poem is not freely available to students in middle school. As the Washington Post reported, a student must request it from a media specialist, then prove that they can read at a fifth-grade level. Otherwise it is restricted.

As this blogger wrote:

Imagine having to take a test to check out a book with one poem in it!

The reality of what DeSantis and Moms for Liberty are doing is now clear to everyone: With a combination of lies, misinformation and intimidation, they want to create an America where it’s easier for a white supremacist to ban a book than it is for a Black child to read a poem.

When Ron DeSantis launched his candidacy on Twitter, he scoffed at the notion that schools were banning books in Florida. That alone should disqualify him, based on what we have seen, heard and read about the state’s encouragement of banning books that refer to gays or racism. A complaint by a single parent is sufficient to get a book removed from the school library. Most recently, a parent at an elementary school complained about Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” which she read at President Biden’s inauguration. The poem is now available to middle school children, but not to those in the elementary school.

The Miami Herald published this editorial about the phenomenon that DeSantis says is non-existent, a hoax.

Perhaps it’s because of how Amanda Gorman alluded to the Jan. 6 attack in her famous poem, finished the night after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol: “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.”

Or maybe she wrote too bluntly about race and the legacy of slavery:

“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”

Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, read “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, watched by about 40 million people. She wrote the poem so “that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment,” she posted on Twitter Tuesday.

But Gorman’s poem is now deemed not age appropriate, one of four library titles Bob Graham Education Center banned, following a parent’s complaint, for elementary school students, the Herald reported. The books are now available only for middle-schoolers at the public school in Miami Lakes, even though some of them were written for younger children.

The school committee that reviewed the material didn’t offer an explanation for its decision. We’re left to wonder: What in the children’s illustrated book “The ABCs of Black History,” written for children ages 5 and up, made it so inappropriate?

Perhaps it was the mention of iconic author James Baldwin’s sexual orientation: “And he was a gay man who believed that when it comes to love, you should ‘go the way your blood beats.” Or the mention of the Little Rock Nine, the “first Black children in all-white schools,” or the Black Panther movement. Or were the colorful drawings of Black female icons like Michelle Obama and Toni Morrison — described as “ queens”— too much?

One thing is clear: Books by Black authors — and about the Black American experience — make up three of the four titles deemed inappropriate for young children at Bob Graham Education Center. The other one, “Cuban Kids,” uses photos to describe the lives of children in Cuba in the early 2000s and how different or similar they are to Americans, according to the author’s homepage. Learning about the lives of their counterparts in a socialist country — including how they got around paper shortages — is sure to turn our kids into communists.

We knew that the movement to “sanitize” school libraries that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature unleashed would eventually catch up with Miami-Dade. Our melting pot, after all, might not be so different from Escambia County in the Panhandle, whose school board has been sued for removing books about race and LGBTQ topics.

Florida’s laws have emboldened parents and activists like Moms for Liberty to challenge materials dealing with these topics. Most recently, DeSantis signed a bill that empowers one person to file a complaint and ban a book, at least temporarily, while a district reviews it. Parents not satisfied with how a district ruled on the challenge can appeal to the state. That is bound to make schools acquiesce to offended parents.

The result, as Gorman wrote on Twitter after her poem was restricted, is that “most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves.”

Elementary students were not required to read Gorman’s work or any of the challenged titles. These were options at Bob Graham Education Center’s library. Those options also should be available for the children of all parents, not only those offended by certain content or groups skimming books to find any remote reference to race or LGBTQ issues.

“Love to Langston” was written at a second-grade reading level but no longer is accessible to second-graders at Bob Graham. The illustrated biography of Harlem Renaissancewriter Langston Hughes describes his own elementary school experience, tainted by racism, in the early 1900s:

“In Topeka, Kansas the teacher makes me sit in the corner; in the last row; far away; from the other kids.”

The parent who filed the complaint said “Love to Langston” contained critical race theory, “indirect hate messages,” gender ideology and indoctrination, the Herald reported. It’s unclear how.

It is curious, however, that “indoctrination” and “hate messages” seem to be flagged mostly when when Black authors write about being Black, or when LGBTQ authors write about being queer. The adults must ask themselves why that’s the case before making them inaccessible to children.

Memorial Day is a day to remember and pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives to defend our democracy. Because of their sacrifice, we enjoy our freedoms. We are called upon not only to respect them and their sacrifices, but to be alert to today’s threats to the freedoms and rights we treasure. Voting rights are under attack. Censorship and book banning are on the rise. Red state legislatures are trying to control the blue cities in their midst. Red state legislatures are passing cookie-cutter laws to fund private and religious schools despite the opposition of the public. A woman’s right to control her body has been eliminated by red states. In a sad irony, the U.S. Supreme Court—which has long been the ultimate defender of our rights—is eroding democracy, under the control of rightwing ideologues, three of whom were appointed by Trump after being chosen by the extremist Federalist Society.

In that spirit, I post a comment by the polymath Bob Shepherd, who contributes his wisdom to us as a reader of the blog..

Pardon me, but this is so important that I want to make sure that I say the whole properly. So, some repetition here:

The Extreme Court decisions that just wiped out much of the power of the EPA to regulate air pollution (West Virginia v. EPA) and water pollution (Sackett v. EPA) in the United States are PART of an overall effort, begun in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, to ERASE much of the authority of the United States federal government on the basis of a NOVEL reinterpretation of the Constitution that ELIMINATES THE ABILITY OF THE EXECUTIVE TO EXERCISE UNENUMERATED POWERS–powers not SPECIFICALLY given it by the Constitution. This would reduce the federal government to a SHADOW of its former reach. Ron DeSantis just gave a speech in which he discussed precisely this, which he described as the necessity of “Reconstitutionalizing” our government:

“There’s a lot that the executive branch can do, and all I will say when it comes to these agencies… [is] buckle up when I get in there because the status quo is not acceptable, and we are going to make sure that we reconstitutionalize this government, and these agencies are totally out of control. There’s no accountability, and we are going to bring that in a very big way.”

In connection with this envisioned vast overhaul of U.S. governance, DeSantis made this chilling promise:

“Even my worst critics in Florida will acknowledge when I tell people I’m going to do something, I don’t make promises or say I’m going to do something lightly.”

Here’s what I think is happening: Repugnican leaders have recognized that if Jabba the Trump wins the nomination, they will lose again. So, the current plan is to remove Trump by standing aside and letting the judicial process do that for them via the various cases now pending against the Orange Idiot. That way, they can take him out of the picture while not alienating the Trumpanzees from themselves–they can blame the fall of the Glorious Leader on some Deep State conspiracy led by Biden. Then, DeSantis will assume the Orange mantle and carry forward, in the Executive branch, the agenda that the Reich-wing cabal at the head of the Judicial branch has set for itself. (NB: the Orange Idiot Trump was extremely useful to The Federalist Society because he, knowing nothing himself, simply rubber stamped putting those people in place–the ones now reenvisioning U.S. government entirely).

It is worth remembering in this regard that the revolution in Germany that scuttled democratic government there and put the Fascists under Hitler in power took place BY LEGAL MEANS. And so the history we haven’t learned from repeats itself. Couple this legal implementation of the no unenumerated powers theory with the independent state legislature theory also being endorsed by the Extreme Court (a theory that holds that state legislatures, which are predominately Repugnican, can hold do-overs if they don’t like election results) and you get the recipe for the end of democracy and the onset of Fascist governance in the United States.

This is how these traitors overthrow democratic government. In the background, not via some sort of January 6th event.

The Texas legislature refused to pass voucher legislation!

Governor Greg Abbott said that getting a voucher law was his #1 priority in this session of the legislature. Republicans have a supermajority in the legislature but rural Republicans and urban Democrats blocked the bill. He pressured every Republican to back his bill.

Once again, vouchers failed to pass!

In rural Texas, public schools are often the only school in town and the biggest employer. Public schools are the heart of the community. Parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins went to the public school. The teachers are well known and respected. Rural Republicans said no to vouchers.

The Pastors for Texas Children have worked diligently to stop vouchers in Texas. PTC issued this press release today:


No Vouchers In Texas!

The Texas House of Representatives has once again stopped a private school voucher program in Texas.

Rep. Ken King’s public education funding bill, HB 100, was saddled in the waning days of the session by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick with a one-hundred page Senate substitute calling for universal ESA vouchers. When the House refused to concur with the substitute, the bill was sent to conference committee where it died.

Although Gov. Greg Abbott made private school vouchers his #1 priority this legislative session, the House was crystal clear in their opposition to it. Three times throughout the session, they repudiated a voucher proposal.

First, the Herrero Amendment prohibiting tax money for private school vouchers passed the Texas House of Representatives during the budget debate on an 86-52 vote. Second, the House refused to grant the Public Education Committee permission to hold an impromptu meeting to push out Senate Bill 8 calling for a universal voucher. The final straw was when the committee failed to garner the votes to pass out SB 8. The plan died in committee.

That’s when the Senate, in a last-ditch effort, attached a comprehensive voucher program to HB 100 which would have provided much-needed funds for local public schools and well-deserved teacher pay increases.

Rep. King did not mince words: “Teacher pay raises held hostage to support an ESA plan. Teachers are punished over a political fight.”

This session’s rejection of vouchers is particularly powerful because Gov. Greg Abbott made the passage of a voucher policy an “emergency item” this legislative session, conducted a statewide campaign in anti-voucher House districts, and personally lobbied House members on the chamber floor to pass it.

“Vouchers are fundamentally unjust and inequitable,” said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Pastors for Texans Children. “It is wrong for public tax dollars to be diverted to subsidize the private education of affluent children. To pay for religious education is an especially egregious violation of both the public trust and of God’s moral law of religious freedom.”

“Gov. Abbott has tied up the entire legislature this session, at the cost of millions of tax dollars, for his own petty personal political agenda. Sadly, his stated intention is to continue calling special legislative sessions until he bullies the House into submission.”

“There is only one way to deal with a bully: a firm, patient, courageous confrontation. Precisely what our morally oak-strong caucus of pro-public education rural Republican and urban Democratic House members can provide.”

The Texas State Constitution, in Article 7, Section 1, calls for the suitable provision for “public free schools.” There is no constitutional provision for public funding diverted to private schools.

Pastors for Texas Children is grateful that the Texas House of Representatives once again stood firm, as they have throughout the 30 year voucher debate in Texas, for the true conservative value of universal education for all Texas schoolchildren, provided and protected by the public.




Pastors for Texas Children mobilizes the faith community for public education ministry and advocacy.

PO Box 471155 – Fort Worth, Texas 76147

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times explains how Republicans agreed to the increase in the debt ceiling: by cutting aid to the neediest. He wrote: The cruelty is the point.

No one should be surprised that the resolution of our most moronic fiscal policy, the federal debt ceiling, involved our stupidest social policy, work requirements for assistance programs.

But that appears to be the case. In negotiations between the Biden White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s Republican caucus, one of the last sticking points was whether, and by how much, to tighten work requirements for food stamps and welfare.

In coming days, as Congress moves toward votes on the deal, political commentators will thoroughly masticate the question of whether Biden or McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) prevailed in this dealmaking and which of them will be hurt or harmed politically by the outcome.

Democrats right now are willing to default on the debt so they can continue making welfare payments for people that are refusing to work.

— Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) tells a giant lie about the debt ceiling negotiations

That’s not a very interesting parlor game. (Personally, I’d go with the judgment of Timothy Noah of the New Republic, who thinks Biden emerges as the political victor and McCarthy’s days as speaker are numbered, thanks to the choler of his far right wing.)

More important is what the deal says about the principles of both camps. The granular details of the agreement were still murky Sunday, and it could still collapse because of objections from congressional Republicans or Democrats.

The deal, as reported, freezes discretionary federal spending — that is, most of the programs for which Americans depend on the federal government — at current levels for the next two years, with increases lower than inflation. That means an effective budget cut, relative to inflation. In return, the debt ceiling is suspended for two years.

But Biden managed to preserve the accomplishments of his presidency thus far from the GOP’s knives. He fended off their efforts to torpedo the support for renewable energy in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, their harshest proposed budget cuts, the rollback of student debt relief, and repeal of his budget increase for the Internal Revenue Service.

(Reports say that $10 billion will be shaved off the $80-billion 10-year IRS budget increase, but the money can be redirected to other programs.)

Biden rejected Republican demands to impose work requirements on Medicaid, but allowed some tightening of the rules for food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, which is what’s left of traditional welfare.

Make no mistake: No rich American will be harmed even a bit by this deal. Some may even be advantaged, if the carve-out from the IRS budget comes from the agency’s enforcement efforts; that would help the rich, who are the nation’s worst tax cheats.

The most vulnerable Americans, however, will bear the brunt of the deal points. Let’s take a look.

Start with work requirements. As I’ve reported ad infinitum over the years, work requirements on safety net programs accomplish nothing in terms of pushing their beneficiaries into the job market.

They are, however, very effective at throwing people off those programs; that’s what happened in Arkansas , where 17,000 people lost Medicaid benefits in 2019 after only six months of a limited rollout of work rules. A federal judge then blocked the changes.

The debt ceiling deal will tighten work requirements for SNAP by requiring able-bodied, childless low-income adults younger than 55 to work 20 hours a week or be engaged in job training or job searches. If they don’t meet that standard, their SNAP benefits end after three months. Current law applies to those adults only up to the age of 49. The change will expire in 2030.

This rule will do virtually nothing to reduce federal spending, which Republicans say has been the whole point of holding the debt ceiling hostage. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in April that the change would reduce federal spending by $11 billion over 10 years, or $1.1 billion a year.

By my calculation, that comes to 17 thousandths of a percent of the federal budget, which this year is $6.4 trillion.

If it’s scarcely a rounding error in federal accounts, however, it’s critically important to the recipients of food aid. The CBO estimated that about 275,000 people would lose benefits each month because they failed to meet the requirement.

Biden’s negotiators did get the Republicans to waive SNAP rules for veterans and the homeless, which will probably lower that figure and limit the reduction of federal spending.

Work requirements for safety net programs have been a Republican hobby horse for decades. It’s based on the Republican image of low-income Americans as layabouts and grifters — the “undeserving poor.”

Sure enough, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), one of McCarthy’s debt-ceiling negotiators, couldn’t resist slandering this vulnerable population during the talks. “Democrats right now are willing to default on the debt so they can continue making welfare payments for people that are refusing to work,” he said during a break.

Of course, it was Republicans who showed willingness to default on the federal debt. Nor is there a smidgen of evidence that any sizable percentage of this target population is “refusing to work.”

The vast majority of SNAP recipients already work, but they’re in low-paying jobs that are so unstable that they often drift in and out of employment. According to the Census Bureau, 79% of all SNAP families include at least one worker, as do nearly 84% of married couples on SNAP.

In other words, the GOP insistence on work requirements is nothing but the party’s typical performative malevolence toward the poor. If they really cared about getting SNAP recipients into the job market, they’d fund job training programs and infrastructure projects. They never do.

In any case, the only cohort of beneficiaries that tends to move into the job market at all are younger recipients — not those in their 50s. All that work requirements accomplish is to erect bureaucratic barriers to enrollment in the safety net. But that’s the point, isn’t it?

The work rules for TANF are managed somewhat differently — they’re directed at the states administering the program, which have been required to ensure that a certain percentage of beneficiaries are working or looking for work. How the debt ceiling deal applies to that program is unclear.

In the next week or so, before June 5 — the putative date at which the Treasury Department says the government runs out of money to pay its bills without a debt ceiling increase and thus flirts with an unprecedented default — Biden and McCarthy will hit the hustings to claim victory.

But there’s really only one way to think about the exercise we’ve just gone through. It was a supreme waste of time.

Republicans showed they were willing to crash the U.S. economy to make some bog-standard complaints about the federal deficit, most of which they created themselves through the 2017 tax cuts they enacted for the wealthy. Their initial negotiating stance was so extreme that they must have known it could never gain Democratic votes in the House or pass the Democratic Senate.

The Democrats held reasonably firm. They agreed to some modest budget constraints for two years, moved the next debt ceiling cabaret off to beyond the next election, and saved millions of Americans from serious economic pain.

As I’ve written before, if Republicans were really serious about restraining federal spending, they wouldn’t have voted for the tax cuts and budget increases that that contribute to the deficit.

Instead, they said the only way to control spending is to refuse to pay the bills they ran up, by refusing to increase the debt ceiling. They lied, and every thinking American knows they lied. So tell me, why did we go through this again?

Jim Hightower is a gadfly who keeps stinging the Texas GOP in the backside. He was elected State Agriculture Commissioner from 1983-1991. I recently subscribed to his blog to get a deeper insight into the clowns who now control my native state. You might consider doing the same.

He writes here about the latest embarrassment to the state by its leading yahoos.

Cartoon via

Once again, the Texas Legislature leads by example! Erroneous and wrongheaded example, but, Bless Their Little Hearts, they’re just not real good at thinking complicated things through.

The present lawmaking adventure of the GOP-controlled Lege is an attempt to impose a militant brand of Christian Nationalism as the official public religion of Texas. Throughout history, such right-wing attempts to subvert a pluralistic society’s sense of the Common Good with the narrowest mindset of one particular pietistic group has led to both great harm and unintended hilarity. Indeed, the Lone Star State has a long and daffy history of getting the Bible jumbled up in public policy. In the 1920s, for example, Governor Miriam A “Ma” Ferguson rejected a proposal for bilingual education in our schools: “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ,” she explained, “it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.”

Likewise, today’s trio of Republican numbskulls running our state government – the governor, lt. guv, and attorney general – are acting as Bible-thumping Pentecostals. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick recently rose up on his hind legs to proclaim that ours is “a Christian nation,” that “there is no separation of church and state,” and that God Almighty himself “wrote the Constitution.” To enshrine this religious absolutism into law, these sanctimonious Texas politicos are now enacting a dictate that all public schools must conspicuously display The Ten Commandments “in every classroom,” and the nitpicking autocrats even specify that the displays “must be at least 16-by-20 inches.” It’s rule by rulers.

TIDBIT: The sanctity of the Ten Commandments derives from its devotees contention that the instructions were literally handed down by God. So, every word is sacrosanct. Except “ass.” The 10thCommandment directs: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house… wife… manservant… maidservant… ox… ass….” But the sponsor of the Texas bill, a self-righteous pissant of a senator named Phil King, took the ungodly liberty of removing ass from the holy version of the Lord’s Word. Thus, the children will be instructed by law to obey a religious code co-authored by Yahweh and Phil King. And, thanks to Phil’s red-ink editing pen, they will be morally free to covet their neighbor’s ass.

As proof that these Christian edicts are the holy foundation of US law, pushers of the public indoctrination of children point out that a frieze along the east Wall of the US Supreme Court is emblazoned with the numbers I through X. This shows, they assert, that our nation’s laws are derived from the higher authority of Christian commandments.

But – Holy Ma Ferguson! – they’re flaunting their ignorance. Those numbers refer not to the Bible, but to the Constitution, specifically the 10 Amendments that itemized our people’s original Bill of Rights. And remember that the very first one of those secular amendments prohibits government from enacting any law for the “establishment of religion.”

Note, too, that none of America’s founding documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Federalist Papers) even mentions the Christian commandments. Finally, the various writers of the Bible itself don’t agree on the proper wording of the so-called commandments, how many there are, and what they mean.


To get the lowdown on the Ten Commandments (or is it 13? Or more?) The Freedom From Religion Foundation providesfactual insights and historical context for each one. FFRF is the leading source for tracking theocratic assaults on religious freedom and for providing how-to action items for battling right-wing efforts to turn our local, state, and national government into autocratic theocracies. Connect at

The editorial board of the prestigious journal “Scientific American” lambasted Ron DeSantis’ hostility to science, which endangers the people of Florida. Should he be successful in his quest for the Presidency, his retrograde ideology would endanger the entire nation. His combination of “cruelty, bigotry, and megalomania” will cause endless harm to the U.S.

Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is running for president of the United States on a record of anti-diversity, pro-censorship, white nationalistmeasures. He has targeted education, LGBTQ rights and access to health care, and should he prevail, his anti-science candidacy stands to harm millions of Americans.

DeSantis has banned books in school libraries, restricted teachers’ classroom discussions about diversity, prohibited high school classes that focus on Black history and people, politicized college curricula, limited spending on diversity programs, ignored greenhouse gas reduction in climate change policy, diminished reproductive rights and outlawed transgender health care.

The governor has refused all evidence that masks are safe and help prevent COVID, appointed a surgeon general who advised against vaccines, and continues to paint science and evidence as restrictions to the freedom of Floridians. Instead of limiting the role of government, as he claimed in his fight against masks, he is expanding it to selectively promote a particular religious agenda.

The maternal mortality rate in Florida is rising, yet DeSantis signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, outlawing it after six weeks of pregnancy and endangering people who have life-threatening complications that termination could help. Black women in Florida have the worst maternal mortality rates of any group in the state, and research has shown that people who are denied abortions and forced to give birth suffer mentally, financially and educationally. These statistics surely won’t improve under these new laws, which are pushing health care providers to move out of the state.

By making gender-affirming care for youth illegaland disparaging the use of preferred pronouns and names, the governor and his followers will undoubtedly add to the suffering of transgender individuals. Multiple studies have looked at the mental health of transgender teens. Researchers have found that giving puberty blockers to youth questioning the gender they were assigned at birth reduces depression, anxiety and anger. In another study, 56 percent of transgender youth surveyed had attempted suicide, and causes included feeling they didn’t belong, being excluded and a profound lack of self-worth.

Despite Florida’s vulnerability to climate change, whether through natural disaster or sea-level rise, DeSantis has ignored scientific evidence again, refusing to address the role of greenhouse gas emissions in global warming. He has focused instead on adaptation, or resiliency measures. He’s also nixed sustainable investment efforts like bonds that would fund renewable energy measures in the state. But adaptation and mitigation go hand-in-hand. Without reducing the cause of climate change, adaptation will only go so far, and under DeSantis, Florida remains at high risk of climate-related disaster.

DeSantis has signed bills allowing people to challenge school library books they deem unfit for children. To date, books pulled from library shelves include a biography of baseball player Roberto Clemente (which was later restored), poetry from Amanda Gorman, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and books about Black, Cuban and LGBTQ perspectives.

The authors of several books that have been pulled from Florida’s shelves have sued the state for violating both their First Amendment rights to free speech and their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection under the law. The teachers’ union and other groups are suing on the grounds that the law extends beyond schools into public libraries.

His “Don’t Say Gay” law prevents teachers from talking about homosexuality or being transgenderthrough high school. Such rules prevent comprehensive sex education and invalidate LGBTQ students, adding to the mental health burden of a state that has a severe shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists.

DeSantis and the far right misrepresent critical race theory (which examines the role of race in the legal system) and pressured the College Board to remove references to the theory from the Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum. The governor’s actions are part of a large-scale misinformation campaign to stoke white fear and uphold white nationalism. Yet, racism is reality, and in our multicultural, multilingual, global society, promoting white nationalism will create a generation of students who cannot reason and think as critically as their peers.

The governor has also banned Florida colleges’ efforts to promote diversity, inclusion and equity. The bans could affect all aspects of education, including efforts to recruit nonwhite STEM students and scientists to higher education. He has stacked the New College of Florida board of trustees, historically apolitical, with conservative ideologues to create an institute of higher learning that adheres to his version of American education and white exceptionalism, which is explicitly modeled on conservative evangelical Christian colleges.

What Ron DeSantis has done in Florida mirrors efforts in other states, including Texas. He is among a new class of conservative lawmakers who speak of freedom while restricting freedom. This political maneuvering is part of building his national presence yet it does not represent most Americans’ views. The population of Florida is growing fasterthan most other places in the U.S., but the state is now poised to have fewer critical thinkers, fewer people of color as educators and as the subjects of education, more deaths in childbirth, and scores of people in the throes of crisis because of their identities. A country led by someone wielding such cruelty, bigotry and megalomania will never be “a more perfect Union.”

Pro Publica investigated the case of a child at Success Academy who was disruptive and learned that at a charter school, the chain is free to write its own disciplinary rules. The public schools are governed by regulations, but Success Academy is exempt from those regulations.

ProPublica told the story of Ian, whose mother left work repeatedly to find out why Success Academy had called the police about the child. It seems clear that the school was trying to persuade her to withdraw Ian. But she kept showing up. It also seems clear that Ian’s behavior got worse because of the school’s rigid discipline.

In a panic, if she floors it, Marilyn Blanco can drive from her job at the Rikers Island jail complex to her son Ian’s school in Harlem in less than 18 minutes.

Nine times since December, Blanco has made the drive because Ian’s school — Success Academy Harlem 2 — called 911 on her 8-year-old.

Ian has been diagnosed with ADHD. When he gets frustrated, he sometimes has explosive tantrums, throwing things, running out of class and hitting and kicking anyone who comes near him. Blanco contends that, since Ian started first grade last year, Success Academy officials have been trying to push him out of the school because of his disability — an accusation similar to those made by other Success Academy parents in news stories, multiple lawsuits that resulted in settlements and a federal complaint.

When giving him detentions and suspensions didn’t stop Ian’s tantrums, Blanco said, the school started calling 911. If Blanco can’t get to Ian fast enough to intervene, a precinct officer or school safety agent from the New York Police Department will hold him until an ambulance arrives to take him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation — incidents the NYPD calls “child in crisis” interventions.

The experience has been devastating for Ian, Blanco said. Since the 911 calls started late last year, he’s been scared to leave his house because he thinks someone will take him away. At one ER visit, a doctor wrote in Ian’s medical file that he’d sustained emotional trauma from the calls.

Citywide, staff at the Success Academy Charter School network — which operates 49 schools, most of them serving kids under 10 years old — called 911 to respond to students in emotional distress at least 87 times between July 2016 and December 2022, according to an analysis of NYPD data by THE CITY and ProPublica.

If Success Academy were run by the city Department of Education, it would be subject to rules that explicitly limit the circumstances under which schools may call 911 on students in distress: Under a 2015 regulation, city-run schools may never send kids to hospitals as a punishment for misbehavior, and they may only involve police as a last resort, after taking mandatory steps to de-escalate a crisis first. (As THE CITY and ProPublica reported this month, the rules don’t always get followed, and city schools call 911 to respond to children in crisis thousands of times a year.)

But the regulation doesn’t apply to Success Academy, which is publicly funded but privately run and — like all of the city’s charter school networks — free to set its own discipline policies.

The consequence, according to education advocates and attorneys, is that families have nowhere to turn if school staff are using 911 calls in a way that’s so frightening or traumatic that kids have little choice but to leave.

“Sure, you can file a complaint with the Success Academy board of trustees. But it isn’t going anywhere,” said Nelson Mar, an education attorney at Legal Services NYC who represented parents in a 2013 lawsuit that led to the restrictions on city-run schools.

Success Academy did not respond to questions about the circumstances under which school staff generally call 911 or the criteria they use to determine whether to initiate child-in-crisis incidents.

Regarding Ian, Success Academy spokesperson Ann Powell wrote that school staff called EMS because Ian “has repeatedly engaged in very dangerous behavior including flipping over desks, breaking a window, biting teachers (one of whom was prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection since the bite drew blood), threatening to harm both himself and a school safety agent with scissors, hitting himself in the face, punching a pregnant paraprofessional in the stomach (stating ‘I don’t care’ when the paraprofessional reminded him that ‘there’s a baby in my belly’), punching a police officer and attempting to take his taser, and screaming ‘I wish you would die early.’”

Powell also provided documentation that included contemporaneous accounts of Ian’s behavior written by Success Academy staff, photographs of bite marks and a fractured window, an assessment by a school social worker concluding that Ian was at risk for self-harm, and a medical record from an urgent care facility corroborating the school’s account that a teacher had been prescribed antibiotics.

Blanco said that Success Academy administrators have regularly exaggerated Ian’s behaviors. When he was 6, for example, Ian pulled an assistant principal’s tie during a tantrum, and school staff described it as a choking attempt, according to an account Blanco gave to an evaluator close to the time of the incident. Each time Success Academy has sent Ian to an emergency room, doctors have sent him home, finding that he didn’t pose a safety threat to himself or others, medical records show. (Success Academy did not respond to questions about the assertion that staffers have exaggerated Ian’s behaviors.)

Blanco knows that Ian is struggling. No one is more concerned about his well-being than she is, she said. But villainizing her 8-year-old only makes the situation worse.

“It’s like they want to tarnish him,” Blanco said. “He’s just a child, a child who needs help and support.”

Blanco chose Success Academy because she wanted Ian to have better education that what’s available in his neighborhood public school.

Success Academy, which has avid support from many parents and is led by former New York City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, promotes itself as an antidote to educational inequality, offering rigorous charter school options to kids who might not have other good choices. On its website, the network advertises its students’ standardized test scores (pass rates for Black and Latino students are “double and even triple” those at city-run schools) and its educational outcomes: 100% of high school graduates are accepted to college, the network says.

Success Academy administrators say that strict and consistent discipline policies are essential to kids’ learning. Students are required to follow a precise dress code and to sit still and quietly, with hands folded in their laps or on their desks. When students break the rules, the school issues a progressive series of consequences, including letters home, detentions and suspensions.

Once students are accepted through the Success Academy lottery, the network is required to serve them until they graduate or turn 21, unless they withdraw or are formally expelled…

In Harlem, Ian started struggling at Success Academy just a few weeks into first grade. He’d never been aggressive before he started school, Blanco said. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’d attended kindergarten online. When schools went back to in-person instruction, he was a high-energy 6-year-old who couldn’t follow Success Academy’s strict rules requiring him to sit still and stay quiet. By the end of first grade, he’d been suspended nearly 20 times.

The more Ian got in trouble, the worse he felt about himself and the worse his behavior became, Blanco said. He started falling behind because he missed so much class time during his suspensions, according to his education records. At home and at school, he said that teachers disciplined him because he was a “bad kid.”

At first, Blanco worked hard to cooperate with the school, she said. She was worried by the change in Ian’s behavior, and she thought that school staff had his best interests at heart. But then an assistant principal called her into an office and told her that Success Academy wasn’t a “good fit” for Ian, Blanco said to THE CITY and ProPublica, as well as in a written complaint she sent to Success Academy at around that time. (Success Academy’s board of trustees investigated the complaint and did not find evidence of discrimination against Ian, according to a September 2022 letter to Blanco from a board member.)

“That didn’t sit right,” said Blanco, who is an investigator at Rikers Island and is accustomed to gathering paper trails. She asked the assistant principal to put the statement in writing, but he told her she had misunderstood, she said. (Success Academy did not respond to questions about this incident.)

Several times, when the school called Blanco to pick Ian up early, staff told her to take him to a psychiatric emergency room for an evaluation. But the visits didn’t help, Blanco said. “You could be sitting there for six, seven, eight hours,” waiting to talk to a psychologist. Because Ian never presented as an immediate threat to himself or others, hospital staff couldn’t do much but refer him to outpatient care and send him home, according to hospital discharge records.

Eventually, Blanco found an outpatient clinic that would accept her insurance to evaluate Ian for neurological and behavioral disorders. She said she begged school staff to stop disciplining Ian while she worked to get him treatment, but the suspensions were relentless. Once, he missed 15 straight days of school.

At the beginning of Ian’s second grade year, Blanco reached out to Legal Services NYC, where Mar, the education attorney, took her on as a client.

The school twice reported Blanco to child welfare services as a negligent mother. An investigator came to her home to interview her and Ian. She said she was humiliated.

One month after the child welfare visit, things got even worse. Blanco was in Queens, heading to work to pick up some overtime, when the school called to say that Ian had had another tantrum. This time, she was too late to bring Ian home herself. He was in an ambulance, on his way to Harlem Hospital….

Two weeks ago, Success Academy sent Blanco an email informing her that they requested a hearing to have Ian removed from school for up to 45 school days because he “is substantially likely to cause injury to himself and others while in the Success Academy community.”

Ian would be barred from Success Academy immediately, the email said, even though it could take up to 20 days to schedule the hearing, which will be held at the special education division of the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. If the hearing officer agrees with Success Academy, Ian will miss the rest of the school year..

To Blanco, the hearing seems like just another way for the school to get rid of her son. She thinks about pulling Ian out of Success Academy all the time, she said, but it feels like there’s no good alternative. She doesn’t want to give up on the idea of him getting a better shot than the one she got at a failing neighborhood school.

“I want him to get free of this cycle of disadvantage,” Blanco said. “I want to fight for my son’s rights and let them know that you’re not going to treat my child this way. I’ve made it my mission. You don’t get to pick and choose who you give an education to.”


In several cities, charters get space by moving into a public school building and “co-locating” with the existing public school. The existing public school never likes giving up classrooms, but they are not allowed to say no. The deal is done by the school board or the mayor or some other authority.

The two schools in the same building are typically separate. The students do not have shared activities. The new charter gets spruced-up classrooms and the best of everything. The students in the public school lose space and get no improvements. The two schools are separate and unequal.

Recently, a teacher wrote to describe what happened to her/his school in Harlem after the richly-funded Success Academy co-located into the building:

in 2012 Success Academy was allowed to co-locate in a landmark Harlem building amidst protests from NAACP and several political figures. Over ten years later, the same public school has lost an entire floor of classrooms including a radio broadcasting space, cafeteria space, and auditorium usage. While the traditional public school (that serves every student who enrolls) continues to struggle with attendance, credit matriculation, and graduation rates etc. the charter is allowed to “thrive” by cherry-picking students and choosing to not backfill seats in the younger grades. Charter/public co-locations are separate and unequal treatment of students and are extremely detrimental to our traditional public school community that has originally occupied the building for over 100 years.

Students at New College in Sarasota, Florida, conducted their own, alternative commencement in response to Governor DeSantis’ takeover of the board of the small, progressive public college. He replaced board members who believed in the college’s mission of a self-directed liberal education with new board members who were allied with the DeSantis brand of Christian nationalism.The board replaced the president of the college—an academic—with a rightwing politician who has no qualifications for the position.

In this post, which appears on Tumblr, a New College graduate explained what is happening. The commencement speaker invited by the new regime was Scott Atlas, Trump’s coronavirus advisor (who is not an epidemiologist). The students invited their own speaker, Neil Gaiman, a Bard College professor, whom you will see if you open the link.

everentropy writes:

Hi, I’m a New College alum. I have been following this closely, so I can give you a run-down…Background: New College of Florida is a small liberal arts college in Sarasota. It has around 800 students, and probably less next year. It does not have grades, it instead has narrative evaluations. There are no required classes beyond what is legally required for Common Core. As an Honors College, everyone is required to do an undergraduate thesis and defend it in front of a Baccalaureate Committee. I studied Environmental Science and I was able to create my own major (known as an Area of Concentration). I even designed an Independent Study Project that went in-depth on cholera.

As for what is happening now, the simple answer is that Governor DeSantis appointed a bunch of conservatives to the Board of Trustees (or BoT). One of these is Chris Rufo, the guy behind the CRT scare. They have been trying to systematically tear down the college. This has included things like firing the president and trying to change the school’s curriculum and entrance requirements, with a conservative evangelical Christian angle.

For a more in-depth answer, here is a list of things they have done or are currently planning on doing. (i had it under a readmore but it looks like that fucks up the formatting) They fired the previous president, even though she was ACTUALLY solving many of the issues including enrollment and bringing in donors. By every measure she was doing a great job. Of course, you can’t hire DeSantis’s cronies if someone else is in the position! They fired a queer librarian a week before finals. They denied five professors tenure, including two from the “woke” specialization of… organic chemistry. They are currently trying to change the school mascot. It is, according to the student government constitution { }, AKA the null set. They want a mascot to be more marketable, not because students are asking for it. Most insultingly, they sent out a survey asking for students’ “opinions” and one of the options they had was the Conquistadores. It’s 2023, it’s hilariously out of touch. They removed the “DEI Department”. Which didn’t exist. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was part of the admissions and outreach department. New College isn’t even big enough to have staff dedicated to that. They couldn’t even fire anyone so they made a stupid show of “eliminating it” that did nothing. They are trying to use the CLT, a Christian-based entrance exam, instead of the SAT. (Several alums have started adding an I after the CL.) Also, the formerly student-run cafe is now being run by a local business that has put (misspelled) bible verses on the cups. They want to have a “classics” education, and require students to take specific courses. New College already teaches from “the greats” for many classes, but they don’t actually know what the New College curriculum is. It will also almost certainly be from a Christian, western perspective, rather than the broader one that students currently get. New College teaches you HOW to think, it doesn’t tell you to think a specific way.

They are trying to put in both a baseball and basketball team. That doesn’t sound that bad on the surface but New College has barely enough students for ONE team, and that would have to be co-ed. It’s a school of around 800 students. (Probably less next year). There’s no way they qualify for competitive sports. It’s a grift meant to give positions to friends of the BoT through cronyism. I genuinely feel sorry for any student transferring because they were promised a sports career.

Also, New College doesn’t have sports and is proud of that fact. It’s an attempt to ruin our culture by attracting students that didn’t come here solely for learning. We even have a motto that our football team is “undefeated” (because we don’t have one). They also want to make this a pipeline for students from Inspiration Academy specifically and are trying to make it easier to enter. Finally, the cherry on top of the cake, and the reason that Mr. Gaiman gave this speech in the first place, is that they asked Scott Atlas to be speaker for commencement. He was one of the members of former President Trump’s COVID taskforce and actively downplayed the threat of COVID. His speech was not about how students have a bright future and how they will do great things. No, it was full of self-congratulations, name-dropping, and lies about COVID. If I hadn’t known what it was I would never guessed that it was a commencement speech. The only thing even remotely about the students was about standing up for your beliefs, even when people tell you you’re wrong. The people watching literally turned their backs on him and started chanting “Wrap it up!” which was pretty funny honestly. I enjoyed that. I’m pretty sure most people who attended did so to protest him. Also, the current president of the college didn’t make a speech or hand out diplomas, probably because he knew how disliked he is. Make no mistake, this is meant to be a test case. And when they are done here they will move on to other colleges, and conservatives will bring this to other states as well. That’s why resisting is so important. I will say a bright spot in all of this is the outpouring of support we have received. Thank you everyone who has reblogged this with a message of support. We appreciate it. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

#save new college#savenewcollege#new college of florida#chris rufo#scott atlas#ron desantis#wrap it up!#long post#ask to tag#I’m pretty sure I’m missing things#but yeah that’s most of it#it’s been EXHAUSTING#it’s only been a few months but it feels longer