Florida schools freeze book donations and purchases following censorship law

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Book donations and purchases have been halted in at least one Florida school district for the remainder of 2022 following a new state law that requires books to be pre-approved by certified media specialists. state, which are not currently available.

The Sarasota Public School District, home to nearly 45,000 students in 62 schools south of Tampa, last week asked all principals to ban new books from school media centers and classroom libraries until at least January of next year, a door-to-door confirmed. District spoke to HuffPost.

The decision was based on HB 1467which went into effect July 1 after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the legislation in March.

The law requires a certified media specialist to inspect all public school material to ensure that it is appropriate for children according to their age and whether the material can be considered potentially dangerous. It also requires elementary schools to post online a list of the books and reading materials they make available to students. Books can then be removed from schools if a parent or county resident requests their removal.

People demonstrate outside Florida State Senator Ileana Garcia’s Miami office after the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, passed in March by LGBTQ activists. The bill limits what classrooms can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Joe Raedle via Getty Images

DeSantis, who also recently banned discussing sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten to third-grade classes in Florida, said this law will move towards “curriculum transparency” and help prevent “indoctrination through the school system”.

Opponents of the law argued that it would allow more conservative communities in the state to censor school libraries and public education.

The Florida Department of Education said it would provide training for the school staff must be certified to approve books by January 1 at the latest. Sarasota schools will therefore suspend all new acquisitions until then, district spokesperson Kelsey Whealy said in an email.

“The freeze on purchases and donations of all books used in school media centers and classroom libraries allows time for hiring and work on existing materials as well as time for the FDOE to provide rules and l district program team to provide additional interpretation and guidance on the legislation,” Wheatey said.

All previously scheduled school book fairs will be allowed to take place this fall, “pending further guidance and the possibility of postponement,” Whealy said. Any books purchased by students through Scholastic Book Orders must be taken home and cannot remain on campus, Whealy added.

Similar book freezes have occurred in other Florida districts as a result of the legislation.

The Orange County School District, which has more than 206,000 students in the Orlando area and is Florida’s fourth-largest district, sent out guidance earlier this month asking schools to avoid adding new materials to library shelves until media training is completed next year, according to an email shared on a school board’s Facebook page.

A district spokesperson told HuffPost on Wednesday that the shutdown of new reading materials in classrooms is specific to grades K-3 and relates to books on the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity. gender. The district did not say whether school libraries should avoid purchasing new media until next year, when certification becomes available.

In Brevard County east of Orlando, where the school district enrolls more than 74,000 studentspeople complained at a school board meeting last week that teachers were asked to remove books that had not been pre-approved and books that deal with sexual orientation and identity gender, Florida Today reported.

A spokesperson for Brevard Public Schools denied to HuffPost on Tuesday that he had asked his schools to limit classroom libraries, book donations or book fairs because of the new law.

Other school districts say they are already in compliance with the new law.

A representative of Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale, which has more than 256,000 students, told HuffPost on Wednesday that its policies and procedures align with HB 1467.

“We will continue to train teachers and staff on proper implementation,” the rep said.

The state’s DOE did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

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