The acclaimed poem written by Amanda Gorman for President Joe Biden’s inauguration was moved from the elementary section of a Miami-Dade County public school after a parent complaint and school review, the district confirmed Tuesday.
A parent of a student at Bob Graham Education Center – a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Miami Lakes – objected to Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” for which they erroneously listed Oprah Winfrey as the author/publisher, according to documents first obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project whose authenticity was confirmed by CNN.
It “is not educational and have (sic) indirectly hate messages,” the complaint said, adding that the poem would “cause confusion and indoctrinate students.”
The same parent made similar complaints about “Love to Langston,” a poetry-based biography of Black poet Langston Hughes; “The ABCs of Black History” and two books about Cuba, complaints obtained by the nonprofit group show.
A materials-review panel at the school declined to remove the books from the school entirely but did decide to move the Gorman poem and two other disputed items to the library’s middle school section, which is for grades six through eight, according to minutes of an April meeting of the committee that were obtained by the nonprofit.
The poem’s removal is the latest consequence of a Florida law that requires the approval of books in classrooms and grants any parent the power to complain about specific works. Under Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican set to run for president, Florida has used this and other “parental rights” laws to ban works on LGBTQ issues, social justice and even math textbooks.
Gorman, the nation’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate, was 22 when she performed “The Hill We Climb” at Biden’s inauguration in 2021. Inspired by the Capitol insurrection two weeks earlier, the 700-word poem criticized the “force that would shatter our nation rather than share it” and spoke about the need for justice and social change.
“The new dawn blooms as we free it,” she concluded the poem. “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Gorman criticizes poem’s removal
Gorman was “gutted” by the district’s decision, she said in a statement on Tuesday.
“I wrote ‘The Hill We Climb’ so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment. Ever since, I’ve received countless letters and videos from children inspired by ‘The Hill We Climb’ to write their own poems,” she wrote. “Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.”
Miami-Dade County’s mayor on Wednesday invited Gorman to visit for a reading.
“Your poem inspired our youth to become active participants in their government and to help shape the future. We want you to come to Miami-Dade to do a reading of your poem. If you’re in, we will coordinate,” Daniella Levine Cava wrote on Twitter.
In a statement to CNN Tuesday evening, Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesperson Elmo Lugo said, “No literature (books or poem) has been banned or removed.”
“It was determined at the school that ‘The Hill We Climb’ is better suited for middle school students and, it was shelved in the middle school section of the media center. The book remains available in the media center,” he said.