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An Entire Florida School District Has Banned a Kids’ Book on Segregation

The district pulled the book after one parent complained.

A Black girl in elementary school holds a mic and reads off a paper on stage.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

A Florida school district has banned a book about segregation after one parent complained, part of a disturbing trend of state schools blocking discussions of racial justice.

The Wakulla County school district decided in October to remove the graphic novel Little Rock Nine from its libraries after reviewing a complaint from a parent. The school that initially banned the book did not give more details on why the parent complained but said it had decided that even though the book is historically accurate, its subject matter is “difficult for elementary students to comprehend.”

Florida schools begin teaching about segregation in fourth grade, but the book—which is written at a third-grade level—has been deemed “above the understanding” of all elementary students.

Instead, it will only be allowed in middle and high school libraries because “some students in middle or high school might be at a third grade reading level and could gather knowledge from the material,” the school principal and librarian said.

This book ban is the latest instance to come to light of Florida restricting what can be taught or even read in schools, usually on topics involving race, gender, and sexuality. In March, an elementary school in Pinellas County banned the movie Ruby Bridges after one parent complained that she didn’t like how it depicted race relations in 1960s America. Earlier this year, Pinellas County school officials also banned high school students from reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison—again after just one parent complained.

Florida is increasingly restricting what can be taught in schools at all levels. Governor Ron DeSantis has declared war on “wokeism” and has promised to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on college campuses. He has backed the Stop Woke Act, which restricts teaching about race in colleges, and announced plans to mandate Western civilization courses. His administration was also in close contact with the College Board as it gutted the A.P. African American Studies course.

But the book bans go a step further, as they aren’t even about changing the school curriculum but preventing students from reading the books at all. In public schools, one school district has banned 23 different books from school libraries. Teachers in other school districts have also been told to hide their classroom book collections until all the books have been vetted and approved. But the vetting process is opaque, and there is no policy clarifying how long a complaint review process should take. As a result, books and films are withheld from students for months on end.

“Why is it permissible to teach white scholars Black folks were enslaved but not permissible to teach them about African American contributions to America and the world and the struggles they encountered and continue to experience as citizens of the United States of America?” former St. Petersburg police chief Goliath Davis asked in an op-ed for The Weekly Challenger after Ruby Bridges was banned. “Black history, Native-American history and Hispanic history, though not always glamorous, are American history and cannot be denied.”

Here Is the Moment Cops Arrested a Journalist at the Jordan Neely Protest

Because what’s this story without a dash of police violence?

Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Photojournalist Stephanie Keith is arrested at a Jordan Neely vigil and protest in New York on May 8.

On Monday night, residents of New York City gathered in downtown Manhattan for a vigil and protest in honor of Jordan Neely, a homeless man choked to death by 24-year-old Daniel Penny on the city’s subway.

And of course, in a story already rife with injustice, the police had to make sure that their failings were front and center. Longtime photojournalist Stephanie Keith was among 11 people arrested at the protest.

At a press conference that night, New York Police Department Chiefs Jeffrey Maddrey and John Chell said those taken into custody had violated laws by using a loud microphone, blocking the street, or even because some apparently had “assaulted themselves.”

The police chiefs have not yet clarified what “assaulted themselves” exactly means.

Video shows Chell himself barking at his officers to “lock her up,” after Keith simply stepped into the sidewalk to take a photo.

In Keith’s case, Chell said at the conference, the photographer faces charges of disorderly conduct and interfering with three arrests. The New York Daily News reports that Keith was released and given a summons later in the night.

Keith’s own words, and video open for all of us to see, undermine the police’s account of what happened.

“I was trying to photograph what I thought was an arrest, but I never even got a chance to see since they grabbed me as soon as I tried to photograph,” she told the Daily News. “I said, ‘I’m press,’ and they said, ‘You’re not, you’re arrested.’”

It’s almost too perfect. Penny has yet to be charged for killing Neely—an incident documented clearly on video. The police instead questioned the murderer and released him back onto the streets with little ado. Meanwhile, also on video, one of the most powerful police officers in New York City ferociously commanded his subordinates to lock up a journalist who was simply documenting his officers responding with more force to protesters than to a murderer.

Indolent thinkers often call any number of things “Orwellian,” but if anything warrants the oft-used designation, it’s the lack of arrest of someone caught on film committing murder and the active arrest—also caught on film—of a photojournalist trying to record the police state violently repressing people who were protesting that injustice.

America Is So Broken the FBI Has Created a Video on How to Survive Mass Shootings

The video puts the onus on people to learn how to avoid being killed.

Samuel Corum/Bloomberg/Getty Images

An FBI public safety video highlights just how bad gun violence in America is: The government is telling people it’s their responsibility to survive a mass shooting instead of implementing gun control laws.

The video, titled “Run. Hide. Fight,” shows people at a bar when a patron gets angry and opens fire, and includes tips on how to protect yourself. The video was released two years ago, but it resurfaced on Twitter over the weekend following multiple tragedies in Texas, including a shooting at a crowded mall.

It’s messed up that mass shootings are so common in the United States that the FBI is teaching us how to survive them with a video and a catchy tagline, like the old “Stop, drop, and roll” fire safety lessons. Schools have also been having mass shooting drills for years.

The worst part is that, somehow, this is seen as the solution to mass shootings: putting the onus on victims to survive instead of implementing protections at a national level.

And that disturbing reality looks unlikely to change anytime soon. In his first public address since his state was rocked by multiple tragedies in one weekend, Texas Greg Abbott didn’t mention the attacks. He spent the whole speech on Monday demonizing migrants instead.

The day before, he straight up said there would be no increase in gun regulation. Instead, he said he wants to focus on improving public mental health—something he clearly hasn’t addressed before, considering Texas ranks fortieth in the country for total spending on mental illness.

Texas Republicans Move to Weaken Gun Laws After 8 People Were Mowed Down at a Mall

Not only are Republicans opposing gun reform, they’re also moving to further loosen existing gun law.

Protesters hold signs that read "Ban assault weapons" and "Protect kids, not guns."

Nineteen children and two teachers were killed last year at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Another eight people were viciously shot at a mall last weekend. That does not include any of the other 200-some mass shootings across the country just this year—many of them in Texas. And in the context of all this, Texas Republicans are barely allowing even moderate gun reforms explicitly supported by the families of the victims in Uvalde to pass—and now they are trying to actively weaken gun laws even more.

Texas’s Community Safety House Committee has advanced House Bill 2960, which rolls back existing law directing the postage of “No Firearms Allowed” notices on properties, and consequently would relax prosecution of those found violating such notices. The committee passed the bill 7–3, and the bill has been placed on the general calendar to be voted on by the entire state House.

To be clear, this is the same committee that did not advance a bill to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle from 18 to 21 until concerned mothers and families of the victims of the Uvalde school shooting flooded the Capitol Monday, demanding that lawmakers push it forward. Even so, five Republicans voted against advancing it; the bill moved forward at a vote of 8–5.

What cannot be understated is the sheer culpability of these conservatives. The shootings at Uvalde and the Allen mall are just drops in Texas’s bloody bucket. In 2018, a 17-year-old student killed 10 people and injured 13 more at Santa Fe High School. In 2019, two mass shootings took place in rapid succession—one by a white supremacist at an El Paso Walmart, killing 23 people and injuring another 23; another killed seven people and injured 22, including a state trooper and two police officers, in Midland and Odessa.

These and incidents involving hundreds of other victims have revealed, over and over again, how sneeringly unconcerned this party is with, perhaps, stopping the bodies from piling up. It’s almost appalling, given how both Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee both lost individuals they knew personally in recent mass shootings in their state; for some reason, power structures and dollar signs still somehow enrapture Republican politicians to the point they fail to imagine that a stray bullet may just hit close to their home too.

Meanwhile, people in communities like Uvalde have been brought to fend for themselves as statewide Republicans don’t even pretend to advocate for them or the spirits of the loved ones they’ve lost until the national spotlight is on them, as it was on Monday. Even then, Republicans could not unanimously advance a bill that simply decrees that teenagers ought not be able to buy AR-15s.

In the meantime, Republicans are jumping on board to repeal even the most minute and niche gun safety policies, like the simple act of posting “No Firearms Allowed” signs.

Greg Abbott Demonizes Migrants in First Public Address Since Double Tragedies in Texas

The Texas governor isn’t too worried about guns or violence toward migrants, despite two recent attacks in his state.

Greg Abbott in foreground, law enforcement behind him
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Texas Governor Greg Abbott made his first public address Monday since his state was struck by double tragedies—and he spent the entire time demonizing migrants.

A gunman opened fire at a mall north of Dallas on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others before authorities shot him to death. The shooter is reported to have held extremist and white nationalist beliefs. The next day, an SUV driver slammed into a crowd outside a migrant shelter in the border city of Brownsville, killing eight people and injuring at least 10 others.

During a press conference at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Abbott announced he was deploying a new border control unit to El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley, ahead of when Title 42 ends later this week. Title 42 is a federal immigration policy employed by the Trump administration at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to expel migrants without having to consider them for asylum. The Biden administration has kept the policy going.

“The cartels are working in collaboration with President [Joe] Biden and the federal government to facilitate that illegal cross-border,” Abbott said. “We are being overrun by our own federal government. Texas is being undermined by our own federal government in our efforts to secure our border.”

Normal stuff for a governor to say as his state still reels from dual tragedies.

Abbot went on to propose penalties such as potential felony offenses for anyone who crosses the border without papers.

His remarks come a week after another time Abbott demonized migrants. On April 28, a man in Texas shot dead five of his neighbors, including a 9-year-old boy, after one of them asked him to stop firing shots in his yard so the family’s baby could sleep. Abbott claimed in a press release that the shooter was “in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants.”

The governor came under fire for his statement, which is still up on his website, with critics accusing him of using the tragedy to fearmonger instead of enacting meaningful change.

“There is no limit to the depravity of Greg Abbott and his Texas Republican cronies,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “To use a mass shooting, in which five innocent souls were slaughtered execution-style … to fearmonger and lie about migrants and the victims’ immigration status.… This type of sick behavior is truly beyond the pale.”

After the most recent tragedies, Abbott similarly has resisted calls for change. He told Fox News Sunday that rather than pass more gun control laws, he would focus instead on mental health issues, a favorite Republican scapegoat for gun violence.

Mitch McConnell’s Big Plan for 2024: Support Anyone Who’s Republican

A new report details how exactly the Senate minority leader is thinking about Republicans’ strategy in the next election. And it’s frightening.

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out Republicans’ big plan for 2024: Win everywhere possible.

Republicans are gearing up for the 2024 elections, and they only need to flip two seats to take control of the Senate. McConnell told CNN Monday that they have a few key states they’re focusing on, but really, they just want to win.

“We don’t have an ideological litmus test,” McConnell told reporter Manu Raju. “We want to win in November.”

“We’ll be involved in any primary where that seems to be necessary to get a high-quality candidate, and we’ll be involved in every general election where we have a legitimate shot of winning—regardless of the philosophy of the nominee.”

Republicans have allowed pretty much any and everyone into their party, including election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and just plain liars. But previously, those people had to earn their way into the party mainstream. McConnell has made it clear now that as long as you say you’re Republican, you’ll be welcomed.

McConnell said the GOP would focus primarily on flipping seats in Ohio, where Sherrod Brown is running for reelection, Montana (Jon Tester), West Virginia (Joe Manchin, who has been acting like a Republican anyway), and Pennsylvania (Bob Casey). The minority leader said he’s not confident his party can retake the Senate, but he plans to work hard to try.

Part of that will be backing former President Donald Trump should he secure the Republican nomination again in 2024. McConnell did not explicitly say whether he would support Trump, instead saying he would back whoever the GOP nominates. But he does think that having Trump as a nominee could help Republicans win Senate battles too.

McConnell did not yet have a clear plan for Arizona, where independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema has not yet announced if she will run for reelection. Failed gubernatorial candidate and election-denier Kari Lake, who won Trump’s endorsement, has hinted she will run for Senate on the Republican ticket. McConnell refused to disavow Lake and said that GOP leadership would probably wait to see who wins the GOP primary in Arizona before getting involved.

Even if Lake wins the nomination, “what I care about in November is winning and having an ‘R’ by your name,” McConnell said.

McConnell didn’t seem too concerned with Republicans’ actual policy proposals during the interview. And no matter who runs, Republicans will have a hard battle ahead. A recent Fox News poll found that most voters across the country want increased gun control and abortion rights—two things on which the GOP seems absolutely unwilling to budge. If the Republican Party fails to switch up its policies on these issues, then it may ultimately not matter who its candidates are.

Texas Legislature Finally Advances “Raise the Age” Bill for Semiautomatic Guns After Mass Shooting

Two Republicans had enough of a spine to support the bill. Five looked the victims’ families right in the eye and told them to buzz off.

A gun violence protester holds a sign reading "I don't want to be murdered at the mall." Others around her hold signs as well.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
People protest against gun violence outside the Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church on May 7, in Allen, Texas, after a mass shooting in the Allen Premium Outlets mall.

It took masses of concerned mothers and families of the victims of the Uvalde school shooting to convince just two Republicans to get the stones to support incredibly modest public safety regulations.

On Monday, large groups of protesters flooded the Texas state Capitol as one Republican committee chair threatened to kill a proposed bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle from 18 to 21. The bill, endorsed by families of the victims of the Uvalde school shooting, was introduced in February but didn’t even get a wink of hearing time until April.

Cheers erupted in the chamber on Monday as the committee advanced the bill.

Monday was the final day the bill could advance. Originally, the committee chair, Ryan Guillen (a former Democrat), said he was not interested in advancing the bill. In face of the mass protests, he seemed to waver, allowing the bill to go to a vote.

And upon voting, two Republicans swung to vote with the Democrats, advancing the bill on an 8–5 vote.

The moment showcases the power of people to actually demand their government act on the wave of gun violence sweeping the nation, and yet still the appalling fecklessness of Republicans to have forced such protests at all. After Uvalde, Republicans have done nothing. After another mass shooting, they had to be convinced, not empowered, by the people to even advance a bill out of committee.

And even then, five Republicans (a majority of Republicans on the committee) still found it within themselves to look at the families of those who have lost their children to gun violence, and still vote the incredibly modest gun reform down.

Republicans’ War on Wokeness is Now Coming for PBS

In Oklahoma, the Republican governor is accusing the public broadcaster of indoctrinating children.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt wears a suit and speaks and gestures with his hand. A book is on his lap.
Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt

Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Kevin Stitt doubled down Monday on his decision to veto funding for PBS, accusing the network of indoctrinating children.

Stitt vetoed a bill two weeks ago approving funding for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, which broadcasts PBS and PBS Kids throughout the state. OETA receives both private and public funding. It offers shows including Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Antiques Roadshow, and PBS Newshour.

When asked Monday on Fox Business to explain his decision to veto OETA funding, Stitt demanded, “Why are we using taxpayer dollars to overly sexualize or indoctrinate children with this type of programming?”

A gubernatorial spokeswoman provided “evidence” of such sexualization and indoctrination to Tulsa World the day after Stitt issued the veto, which was basically just a list of LGBTQ content. She said OETA has aired Pride Month programs in recent years, and two children’s cartoons have included lesbian characters in some episodes. PBS Newshour also ran a segment in which an Indiana couple discussed how much gender-affirming care had helped their daughter.

Unless two-thirds of the state legislature votes to override Stitt’s veto, OETA will shut down in about a year—which could have devastating effects for more rural parts of Oklahoma, warned Friends of OETA board member Ken Busby.

Busby told Tulsa World that OETA is crucial to the state’s emergency alert system, especially for people in rural areas who don’t have cable television. “Our broadcast towers are how we inform a lot of rural Oklahoma about disasters like tornadoes and thunderstorms,” he said.

Republicans have been waging war on anything they deem “woke,” which usually means anything that encourages freedom of thought. A major argument has been that they are trying to protect children. But as moves such as Stitt’s veto show, a lot of their efforts to combat “wokeness” will actually have a detrimental effect on children’s well-being.

A Former Democrat in Texas Is Blocking a Gun Control Bill Endorsed by Uvalde Parents

Now Republican Representative Ryan Guillen is refusing to bring the bill for a floor vote, after yet another mass shooting in Texas.

Kimberly Rubio and her husband, Felix, parents of 10-year-old Lexi Rubio, who was gunned down in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas

A Democrat-turned-Republican Texas legislator is obstructing incredibly modest gun reform in the wake of yet another mass shooting in his state.

Families of victims of the Uvalde mass school shooting have been rallying for months behind an array of gun safety bills, including one to raise the minimum age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. The bill was filed back in February but was not given a hearing until April 19. Even then, families had to wait more than 12 hours just to testify on the bill.

Monday—in the wake of a horrific mass shooting that left nine people, including the shooter, dead—is the final day the bill could have advanced.

And on Monday, Ryan Guillen—the chair of the Community Safety House committee where the bill is stalled—put a nail in the coffin: He does not want to bring up the bill for a vote.

It “doesn’t have the support in the legislature,” the Republican said, simply, ignoring the protesters demanding gun control inside the Capitol.

Who is to say how many more coffins will be nailed by the cowardice of Guillen and the rest of his Republican colleagues?

“To honor our children, you’d put this up for a vote.… It’s time for you to grow some balls and do your fucking job,” one family member said last week, addressing Guillen.

In face of the growing protests, Guillen then announced that the committee is taking another look at voting on the bill. “We’re considering it,” he said.

Guillen was elected to the state House as a Democrat in 2002 and, after nearly two decades, switched to the Republican Party in November 2021. The lawmaker is also a friend to national Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Texas Representative Henry Cuellar.

Guillen shares much of his state district with Cuellar, an anti-choice, A-rated NRA conservative blessed by Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn. The conservative Texas duo share both a tendency for political fence-riding and an apparent kindred camaraderie, perhaps in relating to each other’s spinelessness. Just last week, Cuellar boasted about spending time with a couple of his “friends” while visiting the Texas state legislature, including one Ryan Guillen.

“Coming back always brings so many memories of bipartisanship,” Cuellar wrote.

The mirroring between Cuellar and Guillen is almost beautiful in its patheticness. Last year, in the aftermath of the Uvalde mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Cuellar voted against raising the minimum age to access semiautomatic guns from 18 to 21—just as Guillen blocked similar legislation Monday. The bill Cuellar voted against would have also created penalties for gun trafficking, required manufacturers to include serial numbers, and mandated safe storage of weapons away from children, among other very moderate provisions.

The “bipartisan” order that Cuellar so warmly recalls is indeed an influential one. It is one in which Texas Republicans and conservative Democrats put on a showcase of the most cynical, despicable, shamelessly wretched ways of leading one’s life.

This post has been updated.

Random Shootings Have Skyrocketed Since Texas Eased Gun Laws

It’s not exactly rocket science.

Getty Images

Ever since Texas passed a law two years ago allowing people to carry a gun without a permit, random acts of gun violence have increased dramatically—including over the weekend when a shooter attacked a crowded mall.

A gunman opened fire at a mall north of Dallas on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others before authorities shot him to death. It was the deadliest attack in Texas since the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde last spring.

There have now been 202 mass shootings since the start of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, five of which occurred after the Texas shooting. The Texas mall attack was the second-deadliest mass shooting of 2023, after the one in Monterey Park, California. But Texas is in its own category when it comes to mass shootings, thanks to the state’s lax gun laws.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law in 2021 that allows anyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun without a license or training. A study found that the number of mass shootings increased by 62.5 percent in the year after the law was implemented

From June 13, 2020, to June 13, 2021, when Abbott signed the permitless carry law, Texas had 40 mass shootings. In that same time period from 2021 to 2022, the number of mass shootings rose to 65,” state news outlet Reform Austin reported in September 2022.

In the one-year period before the bill was signed, 187 people were killed or injured in mass shootings in Texas, Reform Austin said. In the one-year period after the law was implemented, that number doubled to 375 people.

Many state authorities also say “they have seen an increase in spur-of-the-moment gunfire” since the law went into effect, The New York Times reported.

Texas was already struggling with gun violence, according to a study published in April by Colin Woodard, the head of Salve Regina University’s Nationhood Lab, which studies American democracy and authoritarian threats to it. The Deep South region, which includes a large swathe of Texas, “is the most deadly of the large regions,” Woodard wrote in Politico.

From 2010 to 2020, the Deep South had the highest rate of gun homicides of all U.S. regions. Over that same time period, the Deep South also had the highest rate of overall gun deaths (homicides and suicides). Woodard attributed these high rates in part to the Southern culture of “honor tradition”—meaning that people feel they need to respond personally to perceived slights or insults, or else it diminishes their dignity.

Infuriatingly, Abbott said Sunday that he would not attempt to reform gun laws in his state, even in the wake of the shooting. When a Fox News host showed him a recent poll that found the overwhelming majority of people favor increased gun control, Abbott said he would focus instead on the “root cause” of gun violence: mental health issues, a favorite Republican scapegoat.