Teachers at a school district in Florida have been instructed to “cover or store” books in their classroom libraries pending reviews.
In an internal training video, Duval County Public Schools superintendent Diana Greene announced the launch of a formal review of classroom libraries, which generally consist of books either donated or purchased by teachers themselves, to ensure that they are in compliance with Florida legislation passed last summer.
Florida’s House Bill 1467 passed last July and requires books made available through school libraries and classroom libraries to be selected by a certified media specialist.
Under the new law, books must not contain instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in books available to grades K–3; “pornography,” which the district defines using the Merriam Webster dictionary as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement; or discrimination in such a way that implies “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin is inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
The law also requires all schools to publish a searchable list of all books in school and classroom libraries, making it easier for parents to challenge books.
The formal review of classroom libraries follows explicit guidance approved by the Florida Board of Education on January 18.
“Books not on the district-approved list or not approved by certificated media specialists need to be covered or stored and paused for student use,” Duval’s Chief Academic Officer Paula Renfro says in the video.
According to a Duval County Public Schools release, “The Florida Department of Education has trained all Florida school districts to ‘err on the side of caution’ in determining if a book is developmentally appropriate for student use.”
As WJCT News notes, Duval Schools has already rejected 47 book titles that were ordered in 2021, with an additional 26 titles from the same collection still under review. Jax Today reports that the books, which included multiple titles with LGBTQ+ characters and families as well as books about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, are described by the distributor as featuring “diverse, inclusive” stories.
Across the country, recently instituted school and public library book bans have disproportionately targeted books by non-white authors and those featuring LGBTQ+ characters and stories.
Duval County Schools has previously made headlines for the district’s efforts to comply with Florida’s recently enacted anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including the Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly referred to as “Don’t Say Gay.”
In July, Duval Schools removed a training video aimed at preventing anti-LGBTQ+ bullying in schools from its YouTube channel. In December, the district ended its 20-year partnership with a local LGBTQ+ non-profit due to online misinformation. Most recently, a high school in the district canceled a student play featuring a same-sex kiss. Students alleged that the play was canceled due to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.