After a new law that barred literature unless considered appropriate by a librarian or “certified media specialist,” school instructors in Florida’s Manatee county started physically covering up or removing books from their classrooms. A teacher could be charged with a felony if they are discovered to be breaking these rules.
The revised requirements for the Florida statute, HB 1467, stipulate that the books must be devoid of pornographic material, appropriate for the grade level and age range, and tailored to student’s needs and abilities to understand the information.
The Florida Department of Education’s online training is required of certified media specialists before they may assess whether the books comply with these standards. Reviewing books takes a while because each school only has a few or even one media specialist.
Under the direction of right-wing Republican governor Ron DeSantis, who claims to be actively fighting to “protect parental rights,” scrutiny of the curriculum in Florida schools has increased. This includes a ban on educating young children about gender, sexual orientation, and critical race theory.
DeSantis has established himself as a serious challenger to Donald Trump within the Republican party. While DeSantis is primarily anticipated to do so later this year, the former US president has officially confirmed his bid for a second term in office in 2024.
DeSantis has attempted to present himself as a culture war hero, pushing down on LGBTQ rights and adopting conservative positions on the fight against Covid-19 and various other issues, including immigration, to attract the party’s right-wing base.
To “give businesses, employees, children, and families tools to fight back against woke brainwashing,” he announced the Stop Woke (Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act in 2021.
Teachers have criticized the new rules. “We have people who have spent their entire careers building their classroom libraries based on their professional and educational experience and understanding of the age of the children they teach.” Manatee Education Association union president Pat Barber told the local television station Fox 13.
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According to Barber, the viewpoint of everyone who chooses to evaluate and contest books is now being replaced by their professional judgment and training. We’re concentrating on issues that make instructors want to quit their jobs in education because they find it difficult to focus on the task at hand—educating students.
Even some teachers are using paper to cover their library books. History teacher Don Falls from Manatee High School told the Herald-Tribune: “If you have a lot of books as I do, probably several hundred, it is not practical to run all of them through [the vetting process], so we have to cover them up.”
This year, more school districts in Florida are anticipated to adopt similar practices. The state’s education department set the deadline for “the superintendent of schools in each district must certify to the FDOE Commissioner that all school librarians and media specialists have completed this training” as 1 July 2023.