Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a bill that will increase scrutiny of school library books and instructional materials and impose 12-year term limits on school board members.
Lawmakers approved the measure (HB 1467) during the legislative session that ended March 14th.
“I think these are well-meaning reforms,” DeSantis said. “And it’s going to help give parents a lot of confidence that they can send their kids to school and they’ll get an education but they’re not necessarily going to be indoctrinated into things that are very, very questionable.”
Under the bill, school boards will be required to adopt procedures that, in part, provide for the “regular removal or discontinuance” of books from media centers based on factors such as alignment to state academic standards.
Elementary schools will be required to publish online lists of all materials maintained in school libraries or that are part of school reading lists.
“There are some who say parents don’t even have a right to know what is being taught,” DeSantis said at a press conference. “There are actually some places where you can make serious decisions for these kids and not inform the parents about it. That is not going to fly in the state of Florida.”
DeSantis asserted that sexually graphic books have found their way into school libraries across the country and that his bill will allow parents to lodge complaints without administrative reprisal.
“Some people say if you don’t have every book under the sun in the library that you want to ban books,” DeSantis said. “That’s not true.” DeSantis referred to some books found in school libraries as “incredibly disturbing” and “inappropriate.”
“You have some groups that want to take away classic books like ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ but they want things like ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir,’ which is a cartoon-style book with graphic images of children performing sexual acts. That is wrong,” he said. “That has no place in the schools.
“They want to eliminate ‘Of Mice and Men,’ but ‘Lawn Boy,’ a book containing explicit passages of pedophilia, is somehow accepted as being OK,” DeSantis said. “And so parents understand when they see this. They understand how to blow the whistle on this. I think we just need to make sure they are equipped to do what needs to be done.”
Democratic lawmakers and others have questioned the bill. PEN America, a nonprofit that champions free expression, called the bill an “educational gag order.“
“It is difficult to divorce the legislation from its larger political context,” a PEN America analysis reads. “There is a concerted campaign underway across the country to ban books and instructional materials containing ‘objectionable’ content. Often, that content amounts to little more than an acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ identities or the existence of racism or sexism.”
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