Book complaints reigned in under new education law

by | Apr 17, 2024

Florida has introduced new regulations under House Bill 1285 that limit residents without school-aged children to one educational material challenge per month in schools.

The State of Florida has enacted new restrictions on how frequently residents without school-aged children can challenge educational materials in schools, a move aimed at reducing disruptions caused by frequent book complaints.

The revised policy is part of House Bill 1285, signed into law on Tuesday to more broadly streamline educational standards and content management across the state.

Under the legislation, individuals without children in a school district will be limited to one objection per month. The measure, authorized by the State Board of Education, is designed to prevent a minority of individuals from exerting undue influence over school curricula and ensure a consistent learning environment for all students.

According to a press release issued by the Executive Office of the Governor, unlimited objections remain for parents with children in the school district, which includes homeschooled students accessing district materials.

The bill additionally mandates that if a school board, upon a complaint, discovers any instructional material that includes content deemed pornographic or otherwise illegal, it must remove that material from the district entirely.

“We just want to make sure that we’re not trying to incentivize frivolous objections or any type of games being played,” DeSantis said in February when speaking on the topic. “That’s an agenda and that’s not what we should have in schools.”

The call to action came after several Florida school districts drew national attention over abundant book challenges. In Escambia County, more than 1,600 books were temporarily removed from school libraries for review under state laws aimed at preventing the exposure of students to materials containing “sexual conduct.” The action culminated in widespread criticism and a federal lawsuit from PEN America, Penguin Random House, and others, claiming it violated free speech rights.

The state, however, refutes responsibility over the pulled books, stating that each school district is delegated to individually uphold state law in their libraries.

“The Department [of Education] does not ban books,” the Executive Office of the Governor said earlier this year. “Each school district is responsible for ensuring all the materials in their schools adhere to state education standards.”

Legislation supported and signed by DeSantis in recent years has enabled parents to request reviews of books in classroom across the state, though administrators and schools staff members have expressed confusion regarding how the laws are enforced. Consequentially, some school districts preemptively removed books en mass. According to NBC Newsschool districts in 21 counties removed books during the 2022-23 school year.


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