Miami-Dade school moves Biden inauguration poem after parent complaint

County mayor invites poet for reading: ‘If you’re in, we will coordinate’

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. – The Miami-Dade school district is responding to criticism over a decision to move a poem written by Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate, which was delivered at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, to a school library section aimed at older readers after a parent complained.

Misattributing its authorship to Oprah Winfrey, who wrote a foreword to the book, the parent at the Bob Graham Education Center, a Pre-K through eighth-grade school in Miami Lakes, said “The Hill We Climb” contained “indirectly (sic) hate messages.”

The poem references themes of racial justice.

Gorman tweeted that she was “gutted” by the decision and decried “censorship” taking place across the country as book challenges gain steam.

Attaching a copy of the complaint, she added: “So they ban my book from young readers, confuse me with @oprah, fail to specify what parts of my poetry they object to, refuse to read any reviews, and offer no alternatives…Unnecessary #bookbans like these are on the rise, and we must fight back.”

“Are you aware of professional reviews on this material?” the complaint form asks.

“I don’t need it,” the parent wrote.

That parent’s complaints also claim other texts in the library regarding African American and Cuban themes are indoctrinating children.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, set to launch his presidential campaign Wednesday, has made challenges against books promoting “indoctrination” a central focus.

For its part, Miami-Dade County Public Schools pushed back against the idea that the book was “banned.”

The book, a district tweet reads, “was never banned or removed from one of our schools. The book is available in the media center as part of the middle grades collection.”

A district spokesperson said Tuesday night that the school determined 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.”

While, in its statements, the district didn’t outline the school’s reasoning for moving the text, a document obtained by Local 10 News showed that reviewers determined it should be in the middle school section because its vocabulary was better-suited to middle schoolers.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava weighed in on the controversy Wednesday morning, tweeting at Gorman from her campaign account, telling the poet that her work “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,” Levine Cava said. “If you’re in, we will coordinate.”

Local 10 News tried speaking to parents at the Bob Graham Education Center about the controversy Wednesday morning, but they were either unaware of it or didn’t wish to comment.

Neither did the woman who made the complaint and others.

Two Miami-Dade school board members did have something to say, however.

“What we see right now is this effort to utilize a dog whistle of indoctrination as now translated into an act of denial,” board member Steve Gallon III said. “The law stipulates that if it’s not pornographic, if it is not profane, it is not offensive, if is it not divisive, I don’t see any of those particular elements in these bodies of work.”

Board member Lucia Baez-Geller said the complaint was “the result of our governor’s political divisive rhetoric and unfortunately our student’s education is being weaponized right now.”

The school district sent a letter to parents following the controversy:

“Bob Graham Education Center remains committed to providing a quality program of library media center services to our students that includes quality materials in a variety of formats and reading levels that offer a well-balanced coverage of subjects and support the diverse interests, needs, and viewpoints of our school community.

Recently, there has been media coverage regarding one of the books in our collection entitled The Hill We Climb. This text was reviewed and placed in the middle grades area of our school media center.

As an additional point of information, The Hill We Climb is classified as Young Adult in Titlewave by Follet and categorized as Middle Grades in Accelerated Reader.

However, to be clear, even though The Hill We Climb is located in the middle grades area of our media center, it remains accessible to all students.”

District message to parents

Read the related records

A Miami Lakes parent objected to a book in March at a Miami-Dade County public school. (MCPS)
One parent objects to books at school in Miami-Dade. (MDCPS)
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About the Authors:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.