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Amanda Gorman ‘gutted’ after Florida school restricts access to ‘The Hill We Climb’ and other titles

Gorman posted a statement on social media addressing the decision.
/ Source: TODAY

A school in Florida is facing backlash online after restricting several books, including Amanda Gorman's poem "The Hill We Climb," to the middle school section of the library.

The move — which happened at a pre-K-to-eighth-grade school in Miami Lakes following one parent's complaint about five titles, including "The Hill We Climb" — caught the attention of Gorman on May 23, who took to social media to denounce what she described as a "ban."

"I’m gutted," she wrote in a statement.

She cited the American Library Association in saying there has been a notable increase in the number of books being challenged.

"What’s more, often all it takes to remove these works from our libraries and schools is a single objection," she wrote. "And let’s be clear: most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves. The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white voices."

Gorman famously performed her original poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.

Joe Biden Sworn In As 46th President Of The United States At U.S. Capitol Inauguration Ceremony
Amanda Gorman delivered “The Hill We Climb” during President Biden's inauguration.Erin Schaff-Pool / Getty Images

She wrote in her May 23 statement that she'd penned the poem "so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment."

"Ever since, I’ve received countless letters and videos from children inspired by 'The Hill We Climb' to write their own poems. Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech," she wrote.

In a tweet later on May 23, Miami-Dade County Public Schools appeared to respond to Gorman's post and subsequent news stories.

"In order to ensure accurate information, @MDCPS is compelled to clarify that the book titled, “The Hill We Climb” by  @TheAmandaGorman 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," it wrote.

Records obtained by the Florida Freedom To Read Project and viewed by TODAY.com show that one parent filed five complaints to her kids' school, the Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes.

She took issue with the following titles:

  • "Countries in the News Cuba"
  • "Cuban Kids"
  • "The Hill We Climb"
  • "Love to Langston"
  • "The ABCs of Black History"

In her complaint about Gorman's work, the parent incorrectly wrote that Oprah Winfrey had authored the book. In the paperwork, she wrote that the book "is not educational and have indirectly hate messages."

She also wrote on another form that "The ABCs of Black History" contained "CRT" — the acronym for the university-level study of critical race theory.

The parent spoke to the Miami Herald and told the newspaper in Spanish that she “is not for eliminating or censoring any books.” She said she wants materials to be appropriate and for students “to know the truth” about Cuba.

The parent did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.

One of the titles, “Countries in the News Cuba,” was determined in the school's review to be fine for all students.

The Florida Freedom To Read Project, an organization run by three Florida parents, tracks what books are banned and restricted in the state.

"It's important to remember that this is not curriculum," the group's Raegan Miller tells TODAY.com. "This is a book on a library shelf for inquisitive minds for, you know, self-selected reading."

Miller says several recent laws passed by the state's legislature have made it easier than ever for parents to dispute books in school libraries. She cites 2022's House Bill 1557 — which critics have described as the "Don't Say Gay" bill — which bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

"There's a lot of vague terms in these laws, like 'age appropriate,'" Miller says. "And I think that's what they did here. ... I think that's one that they fall back on. Nobody really knows how do you define what's age appropriate?"

In her statement, Gorman encouraged her followers to speak up against book restrictions. She added that her publisher, Penguin Random House, had gone as far as to join a lawsuit in Escambia County, Florida, that challenges book restrictions.

“Together, this is a hill we won’t just climb, but a hill we will conquer,” she concluded.