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Florida school board reverses decision nixing access to children’s book about a male penguin couple

Aug 8, 2023, 4:19 AM

FILE - A copy of the book "And Tango Makes Three" is photographed on a bookstore shelf in Chicago, ...

FILE - A copy of the book "And Tango Makes Three" is photographed on a bookstore shelf in Chicago, Nov. 16, 2006. Months after access to the popular children's book about a male penguin couple hatching a chick was restricted at school libraries because of Florida's so-called “Don't Say Gay” law, a central Florida school district says it has reversed that decision. The complaint challenged the restrictions and Florida's new law prohibiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Months after access to a popular children’s book about a male penguin couple hatching a chick was restricted at school libraries because of Florida’s “ Don’t Say Gay law,” a central Florida school district says it has reversed that decision.

The School Board of Lake County and Florida education officials last week asked a federal judge to toss out a First Amendment lawsuit brought by students and the authors of “And Tango Makes Three” in June. Their complaint challenged the restrictions and Florida’s new law prohibiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels.

The lawsuit is moot since age restrictions on “And Tango Makes Three” have been lifted following a Florida Department of Education memo that said the new law only applied to classroom instruction and not school libraries, according to motions filed Friday by Florida education officials and school board members of the district located outside Orlando.

The “Don’t Say Gay” law has been at the center of a fight between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running to be the 2024 GOP presidential nominee and has made the culture wars a driving force of his campaign. DeSantis and Republican lawmakers took over control of the district after Disney publicly opposed the law.

“The Court lacks jurisdiction both because this case is moot and because plaintiffs never had standing in the first place,” Florida education officials said in their motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The school board and Florida education officials on Monday asked U.S. District Judge Brian Davis in Ocala, Florida, to postpone any further discovery until he rules on whether to dismiss the case.

Last week, the judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have ruled immediately in favor of the students and authors without the need for a trial, agreeing that the question over getting access to the book was moot since the school board had lifted restrictions.

“And Tango Makes Three” recounts the true story of two male penguins who were devoted to each other at the Central Park Zoo in New York. A zookeeper who saw them building a nest and trying to incubate an egg-shaped rock gave them an egg from a different penguin pair with two eggs after they were having difficulty hatching more than one egg at a time. The chick cared for by the male penguins was named Tango.

The book is listed among the 100 most subjected to censorship efforts over the past decade, as compiled by the American Library Association.

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Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP

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Florida school board reverses decision nixing access to children’s book about a male penguin couple