In late May 2023, readers asked Snopes if reports were true that a Florida school had banned National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb.” The claim had been widely repeated by the news media. For example, The Associated Press published an article on May 24 headlined, “Amanda Gorman’s poem for Biden’s inauguration banned by Florida school.”
Gorman, 25, had recited the book-length poem to a national TV audience during U.S. President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.
A separate online rumor, albeit with less steam behind it, falsely claimed that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had announced such a ban himself.
The public school at the center of this matter was Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, Florida. Its students are enrolled in pre-K through 8th grade.
We contacted media relations representatives with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to ask several questions. That correspondence is detailed later in this story.
On March 29, 2023, a parent filed a written complaint with the school regarding five different books in its library. One of those books was “The Hill We Climb.” According to the complaints, the parent believed that the “function” of at least some of the specified works, including Gorman’s poem, was to “indoctrinate” children.
According to The New York Times, that parent was Daily Salinas, a mother of two children who attend the school. The Times’ reporting cited records provided by Florida Freedom to Read Project, describing it as “an advocacy group that opposes efforts to ban and restrict access to books in the state.”
Salinas’ complaint regarding Gorman’s poem misidentified the work’s main author as Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey had, however, written a foreword for the book.
In the complaint, Salinas wrote that she believed Gorman’s poem was “not educational.” She said that it contained indirect messages of hate and could “cause confusion and indoctrinate stude[nts].”
Salinas specifically cited pages 12 and 13 of Gorman’s poem as being the reason for her complaint. We were not immediately able to determine the specific text of the poem Salinas found objectionable, nor were we able to reach her by phone or social media for comment.
After Salinas filed the complaint in April, the school placed restrictions on four of the five books she specified, including Gorman’s poem, according to reporting from the Miami Herald.
This decision was reached by “a materials review committee made up of three teachers, a library media specialist, a guidance counselor and the principal,” the AP reported. “The other four [works] were deemed ‘better suited’ or ‘more appropriate’ for middle school students.” (It’s unclear if the books were moved to the middle school section of the library from another area following the review, or if they already resided there.)
According to the Times, the other four books Salinas challenged were, “The ABCs of Black History” by Rio Cortez, “Cuban Kids” by George Ancona, “Love to Langston” by Tony Medina, and “Countries in the News: Cuba,” by Kieran Walsh.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools: ‘No Literature … Has Been Banned or Removed’
On the night of May 23, the school district, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, published a brief statement on Twitter. It read: “In order to ensure accurate information, [Miami-Dade Schools] is compelled to clarify that the book titled, ‘The Hill We Climb’ by [Amanda Gorman] 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.”
The next day, we contacted the district to request comment. A media relations representative sent a statement to Snopes that was similar to the tweet it had posted the day before: “No literature (books or poem) has been banned or removed. It was determined at the school that ‘The Hill We Climb’ is better suited for middle school students and it was shelved in the middle school section of the media center. The book remains available in the media center.”
We asked if elementary students were able to walk over to the middle school section to access the book inside the library. We also asked if the so-called “ban” being reported by some news venues referred to the idea of an elementary student being prevented from formally checking out the book from a librarian in order to take it home.
We will update this story if we receive clarification on these questions.
According to the online catalog for the school library, its only copy of the poem was available to be checked out. “Local copies available: 1 of 1,” the page read.
On social media, Gorman posted a lengthy response in a screenshot, echoing assertions from other sources that the book had been “banned.”
“I’m gutted,” Gorman wrote. “Because of one parent’s complaint, my inaugural poem, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ has been banned from an elementary school in Miami-Dade County, Florida.”
She also said that book bans in general were on the rise in 2022. This was true, according to a report released by the American Library Association.
DeSantis and Book Bans
The AP reported that book bans were “happening much more frequently, especially in Florida — where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed policies that allow the censorship of books some have deemed inappropriate for children in schools, causing national uproar.”
At least one popular tweet about this subject appeared to claim that DeSantis himself had “announced he’s banning Amanda Gorman’s poem.”
However, DeSantis made no such announcement, nor was there any evidence that he had a direct hand in initiating the complaint and/or review of Gorman’s poem at the Bob Graham Education Center.