Summer quiet has overtaken most elementary school libraries in the Miami-Dade County, Fla., district, but the break in the academic calendar has failed to hush a storm over a book series that includes controversial depictions of life in Cuba.
In response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold has ordered the 360,000-student district to keep the books in schools until a hearing this month.
The School board voted to remove this book.
The series, featuring stories introducing key facts and characteristics of various countries, includes A Visit to Cuba and a Spanish-language version, Vamos a Cuba. Cuban children—smiling and wearing the uniform of a Communist youth group—adorn the cover of the Spanish version. That edition contains photographs of a mountainside mural with a caption that equates the work with ancient markings found inside caves there, but fails to identify it as a piece commissioned by Communist leaders in the 1960s.
The conflict began after a parent at one elementary school complained earlier this year that the books portray the island nation’s Communist government in a positive light, and may mislead students about life under President Fidel Castro’s regime. The subject is a sensitive one in Dade County, home to numerous anti-Castro Cuban immigrants and their families.
Two committees and Superintendent Rudolph F. Crew reviewed the books and concluded that they should remain. But the school board on June 14 ordered that the series—including books about Costa Rica, Colombia, Greece, and Mexico—be removed from school libraries, according to district spokesman Joseph Garcia.
“A book that misleads, confounds, or confuses has no part in the education of our students,” board member Perla Tabares Hantman told The Miami Herald.
“I understand that the images and words contained in
Vamos a Cuba are hurtful to many who lost their homeland,” Howard Simon, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. “But the lawful response—as the U.S. Supreme Court has said time and time again—is to add more information with different viewpoints, not enforce censorship.”
A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2006 edition of Education Week