Florida Teachers Are Emptying Classroom Libraries to Avoid Jail Time

Florida school teachers have now begun to remove their entire shelves of books from their classrooms after a new policy stated that they could be charged with felonies for exposing students to books that can be considered “offensive” or “prurient.”

Earlier this month, teachers in Matinee County Florida were sent directives from school districts in order to “ remove or cover all classroom libraries until all materials can be reviewed.” This was in order to comply with a new rule that was voted on by the Florida Department of education, according to internal documents that were obtained by Motherboard. 

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Videos by Rare


The notice of the new rule follows the passage of a controversial law that was signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last year, which required  each book that was made available or assigned to a student in schools must be selected by a school district employee who holds a valid “educational media specialist certificate.”

The new rule is part of a training policy for school librarians recently approved by the Florida Board of Education after several months of campaigning on ight-wing groups such as Moms for Liberty which have placed several members on school boards across the state.

The law is also set to create liability for teachers who whether knowingly or unknowingly provide access to a book that is then deemed harmful to a minor, which allows them to be charged with a third-degree felony. According to the Florida Department of Education training document, material that is “harmful to minors”  is defined as any book with depictions that “Predominantly appeal to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest” and “without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”

According to Vice, several other terms can be interpreted in several different ways from one school to another, but some lawmakers and groups are trying to expand the definition of “ harmful” to include any book with LGBTQ themes or characters.

“We have a huge Moms For Liberty chapter in this area who would love to find a reason to target teachers who don’t buy into their fascist mentality,” the teacher from Manatee county told VICE. “The only alternative to closing my library is going book by book to make sure each book is listed in our district library catalog. I have hundreds of books in my library. I haven’t had hours and hours to sit and do that this week. So my books remain inaccessible until I have the time to do that and remove any books that aren’t in the catalog.” 

In response to the rule, several Florida teachers began posting pictures of their empty classroom bookshelves to their own personal accounts in order to get the word out. This new rule is just the latest effort to get more control over what reading material teachers and school librarians provide to their students. Just in January, there have been 17 bills that have been proposed across 13 states that would allow for criminal and civil prosecution of librarians, high education faculty, Museum professionals, and educators.

Read More: Virginia Teacher Shot by 6-Year-Old Student to Sue School

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