Another Florida school district is sued over its removal of the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three”

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banned books, First Amendment
Banned books. Displayed at The Hive St. Pete. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News (Aug. 2023)

©2024 The News Service of Florida

A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday challenges the constitutionality of decisions by Nassau County school officials to remove or restrict access to library books, including the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three.”

Attorneys for the co-authors of “And Tango Makes Three,” parents and students filed the lawsuit in the federal Middle District of Florida, alleging violations of the First Amendment and Florida public meetings laws.

The lawsuit came as Escambia County faces a separate federal court challenge to its decision to remove “And Tango Makes Three,” which tells the story of two male penguins who raised a penguin chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo.

The book’s co-authors, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, also are plaintiffs in the Escambia case.

Wednesday’s lawsuit alleges that Nassau County school officials removed “And Tango Makes Three” in fall 2023 after a request from the conservative group Citizens Defending Freedom.

The lawsuit said Nassau County indicated it removed the book because it was “weeding” books that had been rarely checked out.

But attorneys for the plaintiffs disputed that explanation and said the removal stemmed from anti-LGBTQ bias.

“Defendants had no statutory, pedagogical or logical basis to remove Tango from the district’s public school libraries,” the lawsuit said. “Rather, the circumstances surrounding defendants’ unlawful removal of Tango establish that they made that decision for a single, unconstitutional reason: their disagreement with the book’s content and viewpoint in violation of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.”

The lawsuit said the school district removed or restricted 36 books after receiving challenges.

It alleges that officials made decisions outside of public meetings, in violation of state laws.

The Nassau County case was filed a day after U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor sent the Escambia County case to mediation and scheduled a March 4, 2025, trial date.

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