U.S. Supreme Court Denies ACLU's Petition to Hear Vamos a Cuba Book Censorship Case

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
November 16, 2009 12:00 am

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Decision a Blow to the First Amendment; Clears Path for Removal of Books

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MIAMI and WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial to hear the infamous Vamos a Cuba school library book banning case.

“It is a sad day for free speech in our great nation,” said JoNel Newman, ACLU of Florida Cooperating Counsel. “This is a dangerous precedent, and a huge leap backwards in the battle against censorship. The aftershocks may be felt in public school libraries across the country. ”

Filed in June 2006, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Inc., Greater Miami Chapter, et. al. v. Miami-Dade County School Board, the lawsuit fought the decision of the school board to ban the 24-book English- and Spanish-language series for children which was banned from Miami-Dade public school libraries last month, including the polemic Vamos a Cuba.

“The Miami-Dade School Board violated the right of school children to have access to the marketplace of ideas in their school libraries,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director. “These books were removed under the guise of ‘inaccuracies,’ but the real reason they were removed was because the books ran afoul of the political orthodoxy of a majority of the school board members. If that is to become the new standard for censoring books from public library shelves, the ACLU may be immersed in censorship battles for years to come.

“It will now be the responsibility of school officials to maintain a marketplace of ideas in our public schools rather than ban books based on religious, political and personal views. The Miami-Dade School Board has the power to retain these books, including the 22 books that were never the subject of a complaint or a review by a committee.”

The school district yanked the book series off the library shelves after a politically charged school board vote which rejected the advice of the school board attorney, two school review committees (in 7-1 and 15-1 votes) and the district’s Superintendent who all recommended not to remove the books.

American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Inc., Greater Miami Chapter, et. al. v. Miami-Dade County School Board, was litigated by JoNel Newman, Cooperating Attorney, and Randall Marshall, Legal Director for the ACLU of Florida.

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