Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Appeals Court OK's Banning Book in Dade

I think it stinks.

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the Miami-Dade School Board did not violate the Constitution in 2006 when it removed a controversial children's book about Cuba from the public schools' library system.

A three judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, in a 2-1 vote, said the board did not breach the First Amendment, and ordered a Miami federal judge to lift a preliminary injunction that had allowed Vamos a Cuba to be checked out from school libraries.

The majority opinion supported the School Board's authority to set educational standards in Miami-Dade, which said the bilingual book, part of a library series on 24 nations, presented an ''inaccurate'' view of life in Cuba under its former leader, Fidel Castro.

I echo what Howard Simon, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said, which is that “censorship is never an answer.”

Legally, folks, the next step is for the ACLU to ask not just a three judge panel, but the entire court to hear the decision. If they lose there, then the Supreme Court is an option.

The whirlwind began sowing itself in 2006 when Dade County School Board members voted to remove the book. They let political judgments overrule the common sense decision of two academic advisory committees and the Superintendent of Schools.

After the ACLU challenged the board's decision, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold issued what I thought was a very correct ruling. He determined that the School Board's opposition to the book was indeed political and that it should add books of different perspectives to its collections instead of removing the offending titles. He was reversed. That is the process of law. Now we can only hope that same process, revisited again, allows the entire 11th District to take jurisdiction of the case, and reverse the new ruling.

Keep in mind though who has been appointing United States District Court judges for the past eight years. It is a conservative court. Vamos a Bush.

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