Florida is experiencing peak lows in teacher counts. Government response: felony charges over books. Reading is fundamental for students in all grades, but what once were bookshelves in Manatee and Duval counties are now barren following recent bills banning books that contain “inappropriate” material. These banned titles in Duval span from The Berenstain Bears to The Stonewall Riots: Coming out in the Street.
Books in classrooms are not allowed to contain LGBTQ+ (lower grade students), social justice, or Critical Race Theory themes. In Miami-Dade County, Moms for Liberty are pushing to ban The Kite Runner, a story covering the escape of a young boy from Kabul. Governor Ron Desantis introduced this bill (HB 1467) to ban “age inappropriate” books from schools. As someone who spent all of their education in the public school system, I can guarantee no teacher has pornographic texts on display in their classrooms, so the motives for this bill are vague at best.
Books in classrooms must now be approved by a county official with proper certifications prior to being displayed on the shelves. This combined with the “Stop WOKE” act gives grounds to ban any books that discuss racial issues in a manner that may cause students to feel “guilt or distress” from the material.
Regarding teachers, they are now walking on eggshells as to what literature and media they share in the classroom, as third-degree felony charges are at stake if they step “out of line”. The joy of teaching is sharing literature with students, which may include some heavy material, in order to learn experiences that they are unfamiliar with.
As an avid reader myself, I remember teachers leaving books on my desk to read from their own personal recommendations, appropriate to grade level. I couldn’t imagine walking into a class with no books, or stories that only follow an “approved” narrative. Taking away teachers’ freedoms to govern their classrooms will only steer more students away from careers in education, an ongoing problem that only worsens with time. The gravity of this bill is extremely discouraging to instructors, and as according to Dan Falls of Manatee High, “it’s frustrating as a long-time educator. I have been in the classroom for 38 years and I’ve never seen anything like this where this kind of widespread attempt to silence students”.