News (USA)

Teacher fired over video of bookshelves allegedly empty from DeSantis’s book banning

Brian Covey, lorida-book-banning-viral-video-fired-ron-desantis-library-schools
Brian Covey Photo: First Coast News screenshot

Brian Covey, a Florida teacher, has been fired after posting a viral video of a school library’s empty bookshelves. Covey’s video showed the effect of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s ban on LGBTQ+ and racial content in schools, but DeSantis publicly disavowed Covey’s video as a “fake narrative.”

Covey, a substitute teacher at Mandarin Middle School in Jacksonville, posted the original video on January 27. In one of his posts about the books’ removal, he wrote, “They removed every single book from my children’s classrooms… I read books about the consequences of this when I was in school.”

However, when a journalist asked DeSantis about Covey’s post on February 14, he said, “That video, that was a fake narrative, that was not true… [The school] hadn’t even put out the books to begin with… What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to act like somehow we don’t want books… Anytime you hear about something that seems so outlandish, just understand they’re manufacturing that to try to create a narrative.”

Two days later, Covey said he was informed by Education Staffing Solutions (ESS), the third part service used by Duval County Public Schools, that he had been fired because he “had violated their cellphone and social media policy,” The Washington Post reported.

“I was never told not to take any videos in the library,” said Covey, 39, of Jacksonville. “I had no communication from the district or anything about what I was doing until DeSantis was asked the question and he kind of blew it up.”

In a statement to First Coast News, a Duval County Public Schools District spokesperson said, “In discussion between the district and ESS regarding this individual’s misrepresentation of the books available to students in the school’s library and the disruption this misrepresentation has caused… ESS determined these policy violations made it necessary to part ways with this individual.”

The district posted a response video the day after Covey’s firing. The post stated, “The viral video you are sharing shows less than half the story. Yes, those shelves were empty. But they were in a room full of books. See the video below for the full story.”

However, Covey has continued posting videos of the empty shelves along with claims that 99 percent of the district’s books are awaiting review by the state team tasked with approving all school reading materials under recently passed state laws banning LGBTQ+ and race-related content from public schools.

Covey worked as a full-time substitute math teacher at Mandarin Middle School.

Freedom to Read, a Florida anti-book banning group, said of Covey’s firing, “If teachers are scared they could lose their job for sharing information that concerns them, what hope do we have as parents for full transparency?”

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