DeSantis Points Misleading Finger on the Book Banning Surge

After his failed attempt to run for U.S. president, Ron DeSantis is recalling his stance on book-banning.

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A graphic of a map of Florida with a red push pin in the middle of the state is placed near an image of a burning book on top of an image of a stack of library books. The background is crinkled paper.

Since removing himself as a candidate from the 2024 Presidential Election, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is attempting to scale back on his previous book-banning policies. Though this may appear a good gesture, the Republican governor is supporting new but ineffective legislation that goes against what he previously stood for. DeSantis is placing all the blame for Florida’s book bans on teachers, librarians, news media, political opponents, and school principals. His futile turnaround comes at a critical point and is met with criticism and a ripple of negative impacts.

Circling Back on Book Banning

Ron DeSantis’s extremist agenda, which failed to attract support during his presidential campaign, went as far as removing dictionaries and encyclopedias for their descriptions of sexual conduct and requiring students to get parental consent before reading a book by a Black author. Now, he’s looking to cement more explicit rules through an education standards committee, whose members consist of his devout followers, that would penalize school principals who interfere with the reading materials provided to students. Recently, DeSantis reprimanded Moms for Liberty for exploiting his Parental Rights in the Education Act. Critics of DeSantis believe this hypocrisy is a damage control attempt from the backlash he’s faced over the years while not holding himself liable as a cause for that damage.

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Florida’s director of PEN America, Katie Blankenship, says DeSantis is fishing for a scapegoat and that if he took accountability and genuinely wished to reverse his past mistakes, he would rewrite past bills. While these moves are an admission of guilt on the damage created by book-banning legislation, DeSantis claims that book challenges in his state are a hoax. But, during the 2022 school year, Florida’s book-banning affairs composed 40% of the nation’s total. Florida’s Democratic U.S. Congressman Maxwell Frost comments that even Republicans do not favor DeSantis’s book restriction and that his renewed support for laws limiting bans or making restrictions more difficult is his way of pretending he wasn’t the one who fought for them in the first place.

Public Schools Cry for Help

In a colorful elementary classroom, a teacher in a blue button-up and grey slacks stares distantly in frustration with her head in her hands. She sits at a wooden table made for children with colorful craft tools in containers.

Book bans harm students and are beginning to impact entire school systems negatively. Before DeSantis’s attack on principals, Florida’s schools were already short of 7,000 teachers and underfunded. Florida Education Association’s executive director says teachers are sick of the governor’s hypocrisy and indecisiveness and, as a result, are quitting their jobs. Parents believe shifting the blame on school administration sabotages the public school system, as principals will overcompensate for book censorship in fear of punishment. The recent tunnel vision on book bans is taking away from other urgent issues that need attention, such as the uptake in students’ mental health crises since the pandemic. Students carry the burden of Ron DeSantis’s ineffectual leadership on this polarizing affair.

No response from Florida’s Department of Education has been issued yet. All eyes are on the governor to see his next move and whether justice and accountability will become the forefront of his agenda.

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