Viral images have shown the alarming scenes from at least two counties in Florida, which have been directed to either block access to or completely remove libraries within their schools for officials to review the "appropriateness" of books.
The July House Bill 1467 legislation mandates that school books be "age-appropriate," free of pornography, and “suited to student needs.” It also requires that books be reviewed by a state-trained media specialist. In addition to affecting libraries, a January provision expanded the policy to include teachers' personal books displays.
Giving a student a disallowed book constitutes a third-degree felony, which could amount to five years in prison as well as a $5,000 fine.
As of last week, Manatee and Duval counties begun the book removal and reviewal process. Images of shelves blocked off by colored papers and barren libraries circulated online, with parents in the areas speaking out against the actions.
\u201cSince y'all wanna play the "this isn't really happening" game\u201d— JagsFanBrian\u270a\ud83c\udfff\u270a\ud83c\udffd\u270a (@JagsFanBrian\u270a\ud83c\udfff\u270a\ud83c\udffd\u270a) 1674829380
Marie Masferrer, board member of the Florida Association for Media in Education and former librarian in Manatee, told The Washington Post that students are especially dismayed at the policy.
“The kids began crying and writing letters to the principal, saying, ‘Please don’t take my books, please don’t do this,’” she said.
Michelle Jarrett, president of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Media, added that “closing and covering up classroom libraries does nothing to ensure Florida’s students remain on track for reading success.”
\u201cPhoto of a classroom library at Bayshore High School in Manatee County, Florida after they banned all classroom libraries. Florida considers books to be more dangerous to students than assault rifles. This is truly a dystopian state.\u201d— Alejandra Caraballo (@Alejandra Caraballo) 1674501448
A spokesperson for the Manatee County school district said in a Monday statement that schools are "abiding by all applicable laws and statutes of the state of Florida, and adhering to the guidance of the Florida Department of Education.” A statement from Duval County Public Schools added that “we are taking the steps required to comply with Florida law ... there are almost 800 titles currently approved, and the list grows each day as books are reviewed."
\u201cFlorida teachers are being instructed to wrap their books in plain paper to conceal the titles because displaying the wrong book could result in a third degree felony indictment.\n1984 has become a reality in 2023.\u201d— Duty To Warn \ud83d\udd09 (@Duty To Warn \ud83d\udd09) 1675165567
The policy was supported and signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was also a major proponent of the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which bans instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3.
Florida also recently barred a nationally taught Advanced Placement African American Studies course from being taught in the state, which DeSantis slammed as "a political agenda" that included "queer theory."
DeSantis is a frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential candidate nomination.
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