MIAMI — A children's book about traveling to Cuba, and similar books from the same series about other countries, must be removed from all Miami-Dade County school libraries, school officials have ruled.
In a 6-3 vote, board members decided the book Vamos a Cuba, or A Visit to Cuba, was inappropriate for young readers because of inaccuracies and omissions.
"A book that misleads, confounds or confuses has no part in the education of our students, most especially elementary students, who are most impressionable and vulnerable," said board member Perla Tabares Hantman, who supported the June 14 ban.
The school district owns 49 copies of the book in Spanish and English. The father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary School student complained in April about the book's depiction of life under communist rule.
Appeals to a previous school-board ruling keeping the book in the school's library were amended to ban the book in all 33 schools in the district. Superintendent Rudy Crew had suggested parental consent be required for borrowing the book, or that a sticker on the cover advise parents of the book's weaknesses.
"We are rejecting the professional recommendation of our staff based on political imperatives that have been pressed upon members of this board," said board member Evelyn Greer, who opposed the ban.
Board member Robert Ingram said he only supported the ban out of fear for his family's safety and to invite a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"There's a passion of hate," Ingram said. "I can't vote my conscience without feeling threatened — that should never happen in this community any more."
The ACLU of Florida was preparing a legal challenge to the ban, Executive Director Howard Simon said in a statement.
"Today's precedent — if allowed to stand — opens the door to yank virtually any book off the shelf of a school library at the whim of a single parent and a school board judgment that there is some inaccuracy or omission in a book," Simon said. "The fight for freedom in Cuba cannot be waged as a war on the First Amendment in Miami."
The board only considered the book about Cuba, but the June 14 ruling also covers books about travel to Vietnam, Greece and China, among other countries. Critics said the series does not offer enough details about the countries it includes.
"Basically it paints life in those 24 countries with the same brush, with the same words," said board member Agustin Barrera, who voted for the ban.