Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican lawmakers have made considerable waves by empowering parents to fight back against sex-based conversations with their children and COVID-19 masking mandates.
But on Friday, DeSantis stuck another arrow in parents’ quivers.
He signed a bill that allows parents to review and possibly object to library books they deem inappropriate.
The bill in question, HB 1467, was notable because it set limits on terms by county school board members.
Yet it also included a provision that includes parents in the selection of materials for instruction and school libraries.
According to a House staff analysis of the bill, the measure mandates county school boards to convene committees responsible for “ranking, eliminating, or selecting instructional materials.” Such meetings will be public and the committees “must include parents of district students.”
School districts are also required to compile a list of materials that were objected to and if those items were accordingly removed or discontinued. The state Department of Education will then publish a list of materials that were removed or discontinued.
School boards must also ensure that books “be free of pornography and prohibited materials harmful to minors, suited to student needs, and appropriate for the grade level and age group.”
Elementary schools particularly must post on their websites searchable lists of all materials kept in their libraries or as required reading in the classroom.
The LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida accused DeSantis of continuing his “censorship and surveillance agenda.” The group also asserted it would start book-banning crusades.
“This weaponizes the DOE, requiring it to publish a list of books banned by any school district & circulate it to all other districts. It’s an attempt to deprive even more students of access to educational materials, regardless of whether parents want them to have access,” Equality Florida tweeted.
The left-wing group PEN America also objected, posting on its website, “If recent trends are any indication, first on the chopping block will be materials related to LGBTQ+ identities, sexuality, diversity, and racism.”
Of course, neither Equality Florida nor PEN America explained why it is appropriate for middle-schoolers or even younger students should be exposed to books “Two Boys Kissing,” which is now under review by the Polk County School Board. The book features two 17-year-olds who participate in a 32-hour kissing marathon to set a new Guinness World Record, with the narration of the event conducted by gay men who died of AIDS.
At a bill-signing ceremony on Friday at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, DeSantis said, “What this is going to do is it’s going to require transparency with respect to materials that are being taught in classrooms and what’s available in school libraries.”
“We have the ability to choose what is appropriate for different age groups,” he said.
“Adults have access to whatever they want to have access to but, when you’re talking about some of these kids, particularly young kids, you know, to have some of this really graphic stuff in there is not in the best interest of the parents or the students. So, parents are going to have the ability to have their voice heard.”