Ripley’s Offers Free Book to Florida Residents Amid School District’s Book Ban Review

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In an unexpected turn of events, Ripley’s, the renowned purveyor of the extraordinary and unusual, has decided to offer Florida residents a complimentary copy of its latest “Believe It or Not!” book. This gesture comes in response to the Escambia County School District’s comprehensive review of 1,600 books, a list that includes dictionaries, encyclopedias, and even three titles from Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!” series.

The district’s scrutiny extends beyond Ripley’s collection, encompassing biographies of celebrities such as Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Oprah, Nicki Minaj, and Thurgood Marshall. Additionally, works by well-known authors like John Green, Stephen King, and Nicholas Sparks, along with Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus” and “Killing Reagan,” have been flagged for review.

Ryan DeSear, Vice President of Attraction Operations for Ripley’s Entertainment, responded to the book review with a touch of irony, stating, “The very idea of banning these books is worthy of entry to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” DeSear emphasized the inadvertent collaboration between Escambia County officials and Ripley in creating their next book.

Although the response carries a lighthearted tone, it highlights the seriousness of the situation.

In a bid to encourage public engagement and individual decision-making, Ripley’s is providing Florida residents with the opportunity to claim a free copy of their latest book. Residents can request the book via mail through Ripley’s website until May 15, or they can pick up a copy in person at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attractions in Orlando, Panama City Beach, and St. Augustine by presenting a valid Florida ID.

The offer is limited to one copy per household and is available while supplies last, with delivery requiring a valid Florida address.

This unique offer from Ripley’s occurs within the context of Florida House Bill 1069, an extension of the “Parental Rights in Education” law, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The legislation prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3, with a recent amendment expanding the prohibition up to eighth grade.

Ripley's Offers Free Book to Florida Residents Amid School District's Book Ban Review

The Escambia County School District clarifies that the books under review have not been officially banned or removed; instead, they are undergoing a thorough examination to ensure compliance with the law.

Adding another layer to the complexity of the situation, the Escambia County School District faces legal repercussions from the Florida Freedom to Read Project, PEN America, and Penguin Random House.

These organizations initiated legal action in May, challenging the district’s previous set of book restrictions. The lawsuit raises pertinent questions about the delicate balance between parental rights, the content of education, and the fundamental freedom to read.

As Ripley’s extends its distinctive offer to Florida residents amid a contentious book review by the Escambia County School District, the situation underscores the ongoing debate surrounding educational content and censorship.

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The convergence of legal, educational, and literary factors emphasizes the intricate challenge of navigating the fine line between respecting parental rights and ensuring a diverse and enriching education for students.

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