Amanda Gorman’s inspiring poem, ‘The Hill We Climb,’ banned at K-8 school in Miami-Dade as inappropriate

In an Instagram post, Gorman — the first-ever national youth poet laureate in the United States — said she was "gutted" by the decision to ban her 2021 inaugural poem.

A K-8 school in Florida has issued restrictions for elementary-aged students on several pieces of acclaimed written works after a parent maintained that they were inappropriate for students.

According to the Miami Herald, Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” which she read aloud at the 2021 inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, was one of four works a Miami-Dade County school’s review panel restricted for elementary-aged students because members determined the themes were inappropriate for the younger pupils.

Stephana Ferrell, the director of research and insight at Florida Freedom to Read Project, said she believes the decision highlights a trend to redefine what is deemed appropriate for young students, “especially regarding books that address ethnicities, marginalized communities, racism or our history of racism,” the Herald reported.

Amanda Gorman, the United States’ first national youth poet laureate, reads “The Hill We Climb” at the Capitol during the 2021 presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington. A Florida school has determined the work inappropriate for elementary-age children, a decision Gorman said left her “gutted.” (Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP, Pool)

She noted that books meant for students in grades K-5 are relegated to middle school libraries, out of the reach of the youngsters for whom the authors created them.

“We’re seeing these topics pushed [away] from our kids at a time when they’re most accepting of our differences,” Ferrell said, the Herald reported. “This is the time to address the rougher topics in an age-appropriate way. Instead, those books are not available to them.”

In an email on Monday, district personnel said the issues were “school-level only” and “impact one school.”

Daily Salinas, who has two children at Bob Graham Education Center, reportedly challenged Gorman’s poem, along with the books “The ABCs of Black History,” “Cuban Kids,” “Countries in the News Cuba” and “Love to Langston” in March. She claimed the works included references to critical race theory, “indirect hate messages,” gender ideology and indoctrination.

Salinas told the Herald in Spanish that she “is not for eliminating or censoring any books.” However, she said, she wants materials to be suitable and for students to learn “the truth” about Cuba. 

​A school materials review committee found “Countries in the News Cuba” fair and age-appropriate in its phrasing and presentation and decided it would continue to be available to all students.

While the committee acknowledged that “The ABCs of Black History” was intended for readers 5 and older, it concluded that title and the three others were “better suited” or “more appropriate” in the media center’s middle school section.

Salinas questioned the rationale behind keeping some books available to middle school students, contending they should have been taken from the shelves for all grade levels. She said she didn’t understand how they supported the school’s curriculum.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several education bills into law last year, which prompted an uptick in book challenges filed throughout the state, despite his administration’s contention that reported efforts to remove books are a “hoax.” 

There reportedly have been two informal removal efforts in Miami-Dade, but they were settled “between the principal and the parent without the need to escalate to a formal challenge,” according to The Herald.

PEN America reports that officials had taken 175 books out of libraries around the state as of March.

Since then, PEN and Gorman’s book publisher, Penguin Random House, launched a joint lawsuit against the Escambia County School District and school board for violating the Constitution’s equal protection clause by disproportionately targeting books dealing with race, racism, gender and sexuality.

In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Gorman — the country’s first-ever national youth poet laureate — said she was “gutted” by the decision to reject her inaugural poem, which she composed so that “all young people could see themselves in a historical moment.”

Gorman urged readers to join Penguin Random House and PEN in their legal action, arguing that “robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and speech.”

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