Bruce Friedman, President of Florida’s chapter of No Left Turn in Education, bragged about compiling a list of over 3,600 books he wants banned in Clay County. His most recent review covered Arthur’s Birthday. Here’s the story behind the man responsible for most of the bans in the Florida school district.
What Does Bruce Friedman Do?
Arthur’s Birthday is only the most recent in a long line of complaints. In July alone, Friedman filed concerns for 45 different books. The entire list of books he’s tried to ban is available on his website. Recently, 20 more of his bans have been added for the school board to genuinely consider removing from the library:
The range of books he considers inappropriate varies widely in genre and age group. With Arthur’s Birthday, Friedman complained that the book mentioned spin-the-bottle, and that the game was inappropriate for children. In most complaints he files, he specifies that he believes the books will “damage souls” of children if they read them. He’s also berated authors for writing books that contain these themes and insulted school staff for letting these books be in libraries at all.
In 2022, when Friedman first threatened to start making these complaints, he said in an interview that if anyone got in his way, he would “run over them like a dead body.” Thankfully, Friedman has not resorted to violence, but he has followed his promise to overwhelm the school system with constant complaints.
Do Friedman’s Complaints Make a Difference?
Due to how Clay County’s school system works, for every complaint received, the book is pulled off the shelves until it is reviewed. Meaning Arthur’s Birthday, along with many other books, are stuck off the shelves until the committee has time to review all of them.
Despite Friedman’s reputation, the school district has not made any changes to prevent him from further filing complaints. Some of his complaints have been taken seriously, getting books like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Looking for Alaska by John Green banned from the school district. In total, he’s successfully banned at least 120 books. So while his complaints may seem ungrounded, the school committee does occasionally side with him and has diminished their library considerably due to his complaints.
What’s Being Done to Stop the Bans?
Organizations like the Florida Freedom to Read Project are quite vocal about the damage Friedman has done to Clay County. They make frequent updates to their Twitter, posting about Friedman’s newest successful bans within the community. The school district itself could make changes to its policy about what it takes for a parent to file a complaint as well. But as of right now, there’s not much that can be done to change Friedman’s method.
But if those who support book bans are being that vocal, it’s wise that those who want the freedom to read are vocal as well. If you value the books in your local school districts, make sure to appreciate what the schools near you offer and what public libraries can offer.
Want to know more about book bans? Check out this story!