‘Romeo and Juliet’ banned from Hillsborough, Florida schools

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By Dan Sears

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

Definitely not in Hillsborough County, Florida, where the local school board announced Tuesday that students will no longer be permitted to read many of Shakespeare’s plays in full — due to sexual content.

The decision is in accordance with the 2022 Parental Rights in Education Act, according to the board.

The act, recently signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, prohibits any discussion that is of sexual nature in the classroom unless it pertains to a standard, such as health class.

“It was also in consideration of the law,” school district spokeswoman Tanya Arja told the Tampa Bay Times.

The Post reached out to the school district for comment.

The district stated that should a teacher fail to adhere to the new guidelines, they could be subject to a parent complaint or a disciplinary case at their school.

Leonardo Di Caprio and Claire Dane in "Romeo + Juliet."
Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in 1996’s “Romeo + Juliet.” The story’s sexual content — highlighted in the film — goes against new Florida education standards, according to reports.
©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Previously, English classes within the district required students to read at least two novels or plays over the course of the school year.

Now, students will read one novel and excerpts from five to seven different books or plays.

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“We need to make sure our students are prepared with enough material during the year so they will be prepared for their assessments,” continued Arja, adding that by staying with excerpts, the school can avoid racy or sexual content.

Alongside “Romeo and Juliet,” Hillsborough has decided to censor parts of “Macbeth” and “Hamlet.”

According to the district, none of the Bard’s plays have been banned outright and should a student wish to read the play in its entirety, there are certain ways to procure a copy of the 17th-century classics.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
According to the Hillsborough school district, the decision is in accordance with the 2022 Parental Rights in Education Act, which was just signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
SERGIO FLORES/AFP via Getty Images

Several school board members and teachers reported that they were unaware of the changes until recently.

“I am extremely disappointed that the majority of our legislators and the Governor’s hand-appointed Department of Education are not being reflective of “parental rights” and are ramming through education laws/rules without thoughtful feedback from the community,” slammed school board member Jessica Vaughn in a Facebook post.

“Without much guidance of how to implement these rules/laws without affecting student achievement, without much employee feedback and with almost no clarity of the penalties associated with these new laws, rules,” she said.

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Vaughn also remarked the board was similarly blindsided by the decision of Florida’s DOE to stop offering Advance Placement Psychology courses, after the College Board refused to omit material about gender identity and sexual orientation.

Along side "Romeo and Juliet," Hillsborough has decided to censor parts of "Macbeth" and "Hamlet."
Along side “Romeo and Juliet,” Hillsborough has decided to censor parts of “Macbeth” and “Hamlet.”
Buyenlarge/Getty Images

“Honestly, it feels that much of this is intentional, in order to cause as much chaos in public education as possible, so that the collapse of public education is swift and the agenda of education privatization can move forward with less obstacles,” Vaughn opined.

One teacher in the district called the change “absurd.”

“I think the rest of the nation — no, the world, is laughing at us,” Joseph Cool told a reporter. “Taking Shakespeare in its entirety out because the relationship between Romeo and Juliet is somehow exploiting minors is just absurd.”

“There’s some raunchiness in Shakespeare,” Cool continued. “Because that’s what sold tickets during his time.”

William Shakespeare
“There’s some raunchiness in Shakespeare,” Hillsborough teacher Joseph Cool said. “Because that’s what sold tickets during his time.”
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

According to the educator, teaching “Macbeth” to his 10th graders gave them “a sense of connection between stuff that happened in the past and things that are not necessarily in the past.”

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“The choices that we make, power struggles, delusions of grandeur. It is so rich in content and things that you can have discussions about, academic and scholarly discussions,” he said, adding that reading the play in excerpts would diminish the experience.

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