MIAMI The Miami-Dade County school district must keep a series of children's books banned by the county's school board until arguments stemming from a legal challenge to the ban can be heard next month, a federal judge has ruled.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last week to stop the district from removing copies of Vamos a Cuba and its English-language version A Visit to Cuba. The school board's June 14 ban also covers 24 other books in the same series about visiting other countries.
U.S. District Judge Alan Gold told the district yesterday to keep the books, saying he wanted to "hold the status quo" until a July 21 hearing.
"One way or another, these books are going to remain here until I rule on this case," Gold said.
While Gold did not specify that the books needed to be accessible to students, copies of Vamos a Cuba and other titles from the series remain in school libraries, district attorney Luis Garcia told The Miami Herald for today's editions.
The ACLU of Florida applauded Gold's decision, said spokesman Brandon Hensler.
Vamos a Cuba, by Alta Schreier, targets students ages 5 to 7 and contains images of smiling children wearing uniforms of Cuba's communist youth group and a carnival celebrating the 1959 Cuban revolution. The district owns 49 copies of the book in Spanish and English.
A parent who said he had been a political prisoner in Cuba complained in April about the book's depiction of life under communist rule. Two review committees and Superintendent Rudy Crew acted to keep the book, but were overruled by the school board.
The ACLU and the Miami-Dade County Student Government Association argue in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Miami that the books' removal violates students' free-speech rights and that the volumes were removed without due process.
"The ACLU understands that this book may be found offensive by some members of our community, but the answer to offensive speech and books according to U.S. law has been and should continue to be to add more books and more information with additional viewpoints, not enforcing censorship," Hensler said in a statement.