The authors of the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three” have filed a federal lawsuit against the Florida Board of Education and a Florida school district for restricting access to their publication to children above the third grade. They argue that this restriction violates the First Amendment. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
The Lake County School District near Orlando restricted access to 40 books, including “And Tango Makes Three,” in response to legislation passed last year. The Parental Rights in Education law, signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity up to grade three. The restrictions were later extended through eighth grade, and in April, the Florida Board of Education expanded them to all grades, with exceptions for optional reproductive health education and compliance with state standards.
Author Justin Richardson expressed disappointment, stating that their book has been banned simply because it features a penguin with two dads. “And Tango Makes Three” is a picture book intended for children aged four to eight. It is based on the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who cared for a baby chick named Tango.
Richardson compared their book to the classic “Make Way for Ducklings” and emphasized that both books depict water birds becoming parents and caring for their young. He argued that there is no sexual implication or inappropriate language in either book, yet only “And Tango Makes Three” has faced a ban.
The lawsuit contends that the Lake County School District failed to provide a legitimate pedagogical reason for restricting the book and argues that Florida’s law is vague and overbroad. The authors claim that their reputations have been damaged by accusations that the book contains inappropriate material. The lawsuit also involves six students, including a first-grader who is fascinated by animals and wishes to read “And Tango Makes Three.”
The Lake County School District defended its decision, stating that the book was restricted in compliance with state law. Governor DeSantis has argued that the legislation ensures parents are informed about their children’s exposure and protects young children from premature sexualization.
The lawsuit raises important questions about censorship, free speech, and the role of parents in shaping their children’s education. Conservatives argue that parents should have the right to guide their children’s values and beliefs, while opponents believe that restricting access to books based on diverse family structures infringes on the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and limits children’s exposure to diverse perspectives. The outcome of this case could have broader implications for the ongoing debate surrounding educational content and parental rights.