Censorship or jail is being offered to Florida teachers, told to remove ‘unvetted’ books from their classroom libraries or be charged with felonies.
Governor Ron DeSantis and his fellow Florida Republicans pushed hard the narrative that teachers and libraries are using books to ‘groom’ students in dangerous ways. New laws and regulations in Florida restrict not only what books schools may require, but may allow at all.
In Manatee County, Florida, teachers were told last week to remove their classroom libraries pending state review of their contents.
“Due to the new law that went into effect on December 31st, all Manatee Teachers must remove all books that have not been “vetted” by the state or risk being charged with a THIRD DEGREE FELONY and losing our license,” wrote one Manatee teacher on Facebook.
A third degree felony in Florida carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. Censorship or jail indeed.
The law in question is HB 1467, which requires that only school district employees holding an “educational media specialist” certificate be allowed to choose which books be made available to students. Only school librarians hold those certificates, and they can be revoked by the state in the case of parent complaints.
The law also requires that all books selected be:
1. Free of pornography and material prohibited under s. 847.012
2. Suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented.
3. Appropriate for the grade level and age group for which the materials are used or made available.
(It’s worth noting that under s. 847.012, the Bible would be banned as pornography, as would any book discussing human sexuality from an educational position, and any medical textbook that doesn’t leave out how babies are made. So much for health and biology class.)
Many Florida schools do not have a librarian at all, due to state educational budget decisions, and so no classroom libraries will be available at those schools at all. Out of fear for their jobs and safety, many teachers are not even allowing students to bring books from home.
Ironically, January 23-27 is Literacy Week in Florida, which has the 9th worst literacy rate in the country. One in four Florida adults is considered illiterate. And apparently, they’re writing the laws.