We all know that the South is a hellscape that only demons live in (for reference, I live in Texas–I’m allowed to say that). However, only real hellions inhabit the swamplands of Florida, it’s why Disneyland is able to thrive there– they have to balance out the bad. Have I come on a little strong about the state of Florida and the South in general? Perhaps. Did I make a few sweeping generalizations that are actually harmful about the people that live in those places? Yes. Have I got your attention? Clearly. We’ve been dealing with book bans for all of time, now we’re just dealing with it during a time of tremendous political unrest and age of social media that will rip anyone and every to shreds at the tap of a finger. Let’s talk about Florida’s most recent book ban law that schools are now having to comply with.
I’ll be completely transparent with you here, I am firmly against book banning and any censorship. I don’t think that it is effective on any front and that it causes more harm than it does good. Barring this, I will try to remain as impartial and unbaised as possible while relaying the information that we’ve learned about the past few days.
HB 1467: K-12 Education, Current Bill
This bill addressed terms of office for members of district school boards, duties of said boards, school superintendents, and K-12 principals when regarding “instructional materials,” state “instructional materials” reviewers, uses and funds of “instructional materials.” Now if that sounded complicated, welcome to the world of House Bills and the government! The amendments that we’re concerned about are section two, three and four–all relating to the censorship and removal of unapproved books.
As I mentioned, I’m from Texas, meaning I’m no stranger to bills like this. According to Florida Statues, “instructional materials” are defined as having intellectual content that assist in the instruction of a subject or course. There isn’t anything that indicates that HB 1467 is a ‘book ban’ or ‘censoring’ in any form or fashion. You can’t really say those buzz words in governement documents, instead they refer to vetting those “instructional materials” through either pre-approved lists or media specialists who are certified by a specialized online course created by “the department” (1006.29.5).
The part of this bill that is raising eyebrows, is the fact that entire library collections must now be reviewed and comply with the new criteria set forth by Govenor Rob DeSantis. Not just the main libraries of the schools, but teacher’s personal libraries in their classrooms are also under fire.
Now you’re probably thinking, “well none of the amendments that you listed mention anything about felonies, so what’s that all about?” Don’t worry, I’m not just trying to get more clicks–there is a mention of it. Statue 847 is where we’re going to find out why teachers are so afraid of this new law. S. 847–specifically Section 12–states that any book(s) or printed material(s) containing “explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, or sexual content and that is harmful to minors” results in committing a “felony of the third degree, punishable as provided…”
This is not a joke. Even Senator Manny Diaz Jr. confirmed it earlier this week on Twitter, tweeting the following:
The Public’s Reaction
Teachers have responded in kind. In an interview with CNN, Don Falls–a Government and Economics teacher at Manatee High School–revealed that “teachers were told to box up their personal classroom libraries, cover them up or enter the books into the district’s cataloging system” to check for approval. Falls said that he considers it a “stronger statement” to cover the bookshelves with chart paper than to remove them completely.
This is how the public has responded so far:
Now I did say that I was going to try to remain impartial, so I will be sharing the other side of this controversy as well. This is coming on the heels DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill that garnered immense backlash from many fronts. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill is legally referred to as “Parental Rights In Education,” however the name from Kate McKinnon’s SNL skit just happened to be snappier.
Do I think that parents should have a say in what type of material their children consumer? Sure, within the boundaries of their own home. However, to completely remove materials off shelves and make the content in those books inaccessable for the general public is not the way to go about doing that.
My Thoughts & Feelings
Possibly controversial and iconic.
By placing content that you deem “inappropriate” or “unacceptable” on a pedestal, you only create more intrigue in the minds of the people you won’t give access to. Believe it or not, censorship and book banning hasn’t ever worked. Will things like this continue to happen? Yeah. States like Florida, Texas, Georgia and Tennessee have already put forth statewide laws that “make it easier for critics to remove titles they dislike from school libraries in every community,” reports CNN.
Just look what happened last week in Virginia! One school board member decided that 21 books weren’t suitable for students and they’ve removed them from the shelves. The only thing we have to fear is ignorant leadership.
For more information about how to fight censorship and book banning, visit the American Library Associate website for ways to get involved here.
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