Book banning by right-wing parents is one thing, but laws that make teachers into felons by having an open classroom library is the stuff of classic dystopian literature.
According to reporting from Popular Information, principals in Manatee County, Florida, were told last week that teachers must secure “unvetted” books in their classroom libraries or face felony prosecution just a week before the start of the state’s annual Literacy Week.
Teachers must hide or cover the books until a librarian—aka a “media specialist”—approves them.
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One Florida teacher turned to Facebook, writing, "My heart is broken for Florida students today as I am forced to pack up my classroom library.”
Another 18-year veteran teacher tweeted, “Receiving notice today that classroom libraries are to be dismantled is a travesty to education, the future of our children, and our nation.”
The policy relates to Republican fascist Gov. Ron DeSantis’ infamous “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” which was signed into law in March 2022.
According to the law:
“Each book made available to students through a school district library media center or included in a recommended or assigned school or grade-level reading list must be selected by a school district employee who holds a valid educational media specialist certificate, regardless of whether the book is purchased, donated, or otherwise made available to students.”
Teachers are opting to pack up their libraries or hide them from students.
In order for books to get approval, Popular Information reports, the book must be available in the district library and then follow a 21-point list of procedures to get the book back into the classroom. Teachers are also instructing students not to bring “unvetted” books into the classroom for fear of punishment.
One Manatee County teacher told Popular Information she wasn’t going to follow the rules.
"I'm not taking any books out of my room," the teacher said. "I absolutely refuse."
Florida’s attack on education doesn’t end with books. It also includes a ban on teaching about Black American history, and all discussions about the LGBTQ community.
On Jan. 12, DeSantis wrote a rejection letter to the state college board nixing a new high school Advanced Placement African American Studies course, which his office claims also violates the “Stop W.O.K.E.” Act.
The letter read in part, “as presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
News 4 JAX reports that civil rights and faith leaders are planning a statewide rally to protest DeSantis’ cancelation of the AP course.
Monday, DeSantis gave a press conference during which he was asked about the AP course. “We want education, not indoctrination,” the governor said.
Apparently it’s not just the erasure of Black American history that DeSantis has in his crosshairs. DeSantis also focused on the course teaching “queer theory,” as well as “abolishing prisons,” which he calls a “political agenda.”
“That's the wrong side of the line for Florida standards. We believe in teaching facts, but we don’t believe they should have an agenda imposed on them,” DeSantis claims.
And just like the teacher refusing to hide classroom books, a professor in Florida is refusing to stop teaching about racism against Black Floridians.
Dr. Marvin Dunn, a professor emeritus at Florida International University, tells The Washington Post that he will not back down from teaching the true history of Black Americans in Florida and the horrors they faced.
“Listen, if there is such a thing as the woke mob in Florida, I aspire to lead it,” Dunn said.