Escambia County school district in Florida has removed over 1,600 books from its shelves for “review” in accordance with new law, HB 1069. Included in the long list of temporarily removed books are five dictionaries, eight encyclopedias and The Guinness Book of World Records.
The new legislation is seen as an extension of the Parental Rights in Education Act. Bill 1069 was signed in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and took effect in July 2023. The bill is part of a series of new laws in the state legislature which look to regulate how sex, sexual conduct, and gender identity are taught in public schools.
Anyone can challenge any book that falls under the law, such as the Dictionary
The bill stats that any book which is deemed questionable under this new law, “must be removed within 5 school days of receipt of the objection,” and cannot be returned to shelves until it is reviewed.
Below is an example of a Book Challenge process from Leon County School in Tallahassee, Florida.
Florida has one of the highest banning rates in the country, and educators not complying with the new laws can end up in hot water.
Heather Felton, a high school English teacher in Bradenton Florida, shared with Tampa Bay Times, “Any school can ban whatever it wants,” she said. “If one person challenges it, it gets pulled and there’s a whole process.”
Educators not following this procedure can be charged with a third-degree felony. A teacher or librarian could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for displaying or sharing banned books with students.
Although the new laws focus on younger children and not high school, Felton feels like it’s only time before the law gets expanded into broader censoring, “You watch,” she kept saying. “They’re coming for us next.”
A State Divided
Several polls have shown that the people of Florida are very divided on this issue
A 2022 Politico poll asked respondents about Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill.
- 51 percent of those polled supported the “banning the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.”
- 35 percent of respondents were opposed.
- The poll also found that 52 percent of respondents supported limiting lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity after third grade to “age appropriate” discussions.
A May 2023 Civiqs poll had similar results.