You have likely read that Florida public school teachers are clearing their shelves of all the books their students dearly love because of a crazy new law in the Sunshine State that could find faithful teachers charged with third degree felonies because Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t want children to read. In fact, Salon said exactly this last week, “it’s been obvious for some time that Florida’s mega-MAGA governor, Ron DeSantis, is aggressive with book bans because he would just prefer it if kids didn’t read books at all.” One Florida newspaper quoted one Manatee County teacher fretting, “Farewell, classroom library.” Another mourned, “My heart is broken for Florida students today as I am forced to pack up my classroom library.”
Another news outlet warned, “Florida considers books to be more dangerous to students than assault rifles,” adding, “This is truly a dystopian state.” CNN’s Don Lemon reported that “scared and confused teachers are scrambling to comply with a new law championed by governor Ron DeSantis” and then asks incredulously, “What in the world is going on here?”
Another source said the problem is rooted in “the vagueness of the legislation.”
Well, everyone can just calm down. Not any of this is true by any reasonable analysis.
How do you we know? Just read the law. Anyone can do so.
Good books traditionally loved by students and teachers are not being banned in Florida. Not even close. There is no reason whatsoever for fear, confusion, or the covering over or emptying of bookshelves by school officials as media have been reporting through dramatic images like these. Such actions on the part of school officials are the educational equivalent of flopping in soccer.
This is all political play for the camera to demonize very reasonable efforts by lawmakers to make sure radical and destructive sexual material does not make its way into K-12 classrooms by troubling activists. And yes, such radical, sexualized materials are being introduced into your kids’ classrooms and libraries by activists. Daily Citizen has documented this well.
Any interested or concerned citizen can simply read for themselves what this law does and does not do here. For those who don’t have time to dive into the text of actual legislation, like most good people, let us break it down for you. Below is a screen shot of what the pertinent text of this supposedly “controversial” legislation actually says.
That is all the law requires teachers, librarians, and school staff to be mindful of regarding books in their school. No books may contain pornography.
The meat for this is of course found in how pornography is defined in point number one. The legislation offers a hyperlink to s. 847.012, the part of Florida that defines “pornography and prohibited materials.”
Additionally, Florida law is clear this does not include material serving a clear scientific or medical purpose. But it does apply to materials that are sexually provocative and “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole…”
And the state is simply ensuring that no public school district or teacher violate this wholly reasonable section of Florida law by providing the following clarification.
This law simply seeks to make sure that no school or school official provide, directly or indirectly, any materials that fit the legal definition of pornography. That is all. As anyone can clearly see, the wording of this law is not deceptively unclear or intentionally confusing.
In addition, below is the official Florida Department of Education’s “Library Media and Instructional Materials Training” program that school media professionals must take in order to determine proper school material selection. It is 53 minutes long and simply explains Florida law so that all school officials can be clear about the clear criteria for what Florida public school students may have access to.
Watch the video here.
There is absolutely nothing dystopian, heavy-handed, unclear, or even overly moralistic in this policy. And certainly, it doesn’t keep any child from reading any classically beloved book.
This training video simply highlights each part of Florida law presented above and asks school professionals to consider the appropriateness of reading materials for various levels of student maturity. It even offers the following common-sense criteria as a guide,
It is good practice to assess, whether or not you as an adult making book selection decisions, would be comfortable reading aloud the material in question in a public meeting. If you would not be comfortable reading the material aloud in a public setting, then you should lean toward not making the material available in a public school library for children.
The training video also properly explains that, according to Florida law and the Parents’ Bill of Rights, “a parent has the right to direct the education and care of his or her minor child” and that “school districts are required to provide parents access to any material or book in a school library…”
Most adults would see all of this as a wholly reasonable criteria for determining what materials are suitable for K-12 usage in public schools. And no reasonable teacher should be confused or frightened about being able to fulfill the standards of this law.
Clearly, nothing in the text of this law or the Florida Department of Education’s official training video reasonably calls for any school or school official to feel they must clear or block off whole shelves of books in order to protect themselves or their children. That is an irrational reaction to a very rational law.
So keep all these facts in mind as you encounter scare stories of the “draconian” policies being enacted in Florida against “free access to books” by children and teachers. What we are seeing here is a dramatic over-reaction and demagoguery by a few education professionals and journalists.
Our children deserve a better example from those paid and entrusted to educate them through our public educational system.
Photo from Shutterstock.