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New Florida law could limit the access to a variety of books in the classroom

Posted at 12:05 AM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-03 00:05:58-05

On January 10th, 2022, Representative Sam Garisson from Florida's 11th district introduced House Bill 1467. The Bill, called K-12 Education, included new requirements for the selection and adoption of educational materials.

It was passed during the 2022 regular session and Signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 25th. The Law then went into effect July 1, 2022.

A memo sent to Florida school superintendents from Department of education senior chancellor Jacob Oliva outlines a new training requirement for anyone involved in the selection of library materials. The requirement went into effect yesterday, January first.

Educators and parents alike are worried the bill will make it difficult for students to have access to a variety of books in the classroom.

Heather Garcia is a media specialist at WT Moore Elementary School in Leon County. She said the new requirements will make it more difficult to select books for her classroom.

The law will require books in elementary school classrooms to be appropriate for the grade level and age group, approved by reputable, professionally recognized sources and support of state academic standards and aligned curriculum.

Because of this, Garcia is worried that the book selection process will take too long and ultimately hurt the students. "I just don't know that we'll have time to you know go to a committee to get the approval and then wait however long it takes to get that approval and then it's just going to limit the students access to a print rich environment," said Garcia.

The law will also require all elementary school books be cataloged and published on the school's website.

Garcia said some teachers have hundreds of books in their own classroom libraries, which is sometimes the only books students have access to.

She's worried teachers will end up closing their classroom libraries due to not having enough time to catalog all the books. "Our students that need that access you know our Title I schools or those that may not have books at home, that could limit their access."

It also mentions the removal of books because of an objection by a parent. Garcia said although this hasn't happened in Leon County yet, some of the books being targeted are ones with LGBTQ characters or ones written by black authors.

However, Garcia argues that's exactly what literature is for. "That's not what books are about. You need to see characters that don't look like you so you can step into the life of someone that is different than you and maybe look through the window or maybe perhaps step through a sliding glass door."

Samantha May is a parent of three elementary school students. She's concerned this will limit her kids access to books she wants them to read.

"Parents should be able to talk to their children about the books their children consume, but their personal opinions about books should not affect the books that my children consume or that are available for them to consume," said May.

The Florida department of Education will develop an online training program for librarians, media specialists and other personnel based on criteria outlined in the new law.

Local schools are waiting on what that training will look like.