A book in the children’s series Arthur is facing a potential ban from Florida schools after a conservative activist filed a complaint claiming that it could “damage souls”.
Bruce Friedman, a member of the Clay county school district community in Florida, filed a complaint on July 12 against the 1989 book Arthur’s Birthday. In the book by Marc Brown, the titular brown aardvark discovers his birthday falls on the same day as another party for a classmate.
At the end, Arthur receives a bottle gift from Francine with the words, “Francine’s Spin the Bottle Game” written across.
According to the challenge (via The Daily Beast), Friedman believes the reference to spin the bottle is “not appropriate” for elementary school children. In all capital letters, he wrote: “‘Spin the bottle’ not okay for K-5 kids!”
In response to a question asking what he believes would be the result of a student reading the book, Friedman, in all caps, added: “Damaged souls.”
District spokesperson Terri Dennis confirmed to the outlet that Arthur’s Birthday was among 45 challenged titles which are “pending oversight committee review”. It’s said at least eight book challenges filed in July were submitted by Friedman.
Friedman is the president of the No Left Turn in Education Florida chapter, a right-wing group which seeks to “use all forms of media to expose the radical indoctrination in K-12 education”. A description on the group’s website reads: “Unfortunately, all too often words such as diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, systemic racism, human rights education and health education conceal an aggressive, radical totalitarian ideology.”
As reported in December during a Florida department of education meeting, Friedman said that he had compiled a “list of over 3,600 titles that I believe have concerning content”, including “porn, critical race theory, social-emotional learning, [and] fluid gender”.
Created in 1979, the Arthur book series spans 27 titles in total. It was adapted into a children’s TV series in 1997, which came to an end in 2022 after 25 seasons.