Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made it clear he didn’t want any ‘woke’ books, lessons, or materials in his state’s classrooms — but one county isn’t sure it wants any books in the classrooms, at all.
Under threat of prosecution, Manatee County has forced teachers to completely clear out their classroom libraries.
Under his recent legislation, all school libraries must contain only books that have been vetted by a certified media specialist (more typically known as a school librarian).
However, a sudden shift came when the Florida Department of Education decided that any books accessible to students are deemed to be part of a school library — which means teachers’ individual classroom bookshelves are now a target, too.
In Manatee County, the decree has come down: teachers must remove books from their classrooms entirely, or cover them so they’re not accessible to students.
In a state that’s already suffering unprecedented teacher shortages, it’s one more attack on public education by a man who likely has aspirations to a level of power where he can force this same agenda on the entire nation, not just Florida.
What does it mean for Manatee County?
For now, it means no books in classrooms, and in the long run, it means teachers who want to keep books in their classroom will have to go through an arduous process — presumably with all the free time teachers don’t have — of proving that each individual book is approved.
From Judd Legum’s <em>Popular Information</a>:
“First, someone must cross-check each book in their classroom library with the district library catalog…[A]ny book not currently held in the district libraries must be individually evaluated and approved by a librarian.”
Some teachers even report that they’re not able to let students bring books from home to read, or use e-reader apps.
Meanwhile, there are more than 3 times as many vacancies in teaching jobs right now — over 5k, compared to 1.5k — as three years ago at this time, ClickOrlando is reporting.
Bear in mind, this is in January, the middle of the school year, when all positions should have been filled months ago and secured for the year, and when end-of-year exams are fast approaching.
That’s not a great circumstance for having the state’s legislators focused on emptying bookshelves instead of filling teaching positions.
Meanwhile, even the approved books in libraries are under attack, with some school districts, according to the Florida Freedom to Read Project, actually sending home opt-in permission slips that students must have signed by a parent in order to be allowed to access the books in the library.
One district, they note, reversed the policy upon realizing half their students were forbidden to check out books, not because their parents intended to forbid them, but because they just hadn’t gotten the signed form returned.
Altogether, it amounts to an active and deliberate wall built between kids and access to information — and the outcome could reverberate through generations.
Steph Bazzle covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph.