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Get the latest coverage of the 2022 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

A new law would change the book review process in Florida schools

a shelf of brightly colored books.
Thi Soares/Getty Images
A new law would also require Florida to circulate a list of banned books and other materials from its school districts.

Some critics say the bill would have a stifling effect on literature in the state.

The conversation surrounding education in Florida has revolved around the state’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill, otherwise known by critics as the "Don’t Say Gay" bill.

But another influential education bill has made its way through the state legislature.

Right now,HB1467 awaits a signature from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

If it becomes law, the state would be required to circulate a list of all books and materials banned by individual districts, and the community and parents would play a greater role in the review process.

Some critics say the bill would have a stifling effect on literature in the state.

Jonathan Friedman is the director of Free Expression and Education for PEN America, a free speech organization. He said this measure would make it easier for parents and community members to challenge books, even if they didn't read them.

“You see parents right now challenging all kinds of things surrounding schools,” Friedman said. “And what this is going to do, is it’s going to open the floodgates for that, by ... mandating that all such materials are publicly scrutable and creating these ways for parents to make challenges that are going to gum up a lot of districts' time.”

These challenges could create an administrative burden for schools, Friedman said.

"You're basically creating a system where the school district will cater much more to the sporadic outrages of people coming to the board with concerns and complaints rather than the actual mission of teaching young children," Friedman said.

Friedman said he imagines challenges coming from both the right and left in the future — dealing with everything from LGBTQ issues to representation in classic literature.

“It’s a somewhat unworkable situation,” he added.

"Centralized book ban lists are so concerning because it's supposed to be something that is carried out at a local level, not a state level,” Friedman said. “It kind of sends the message to everybody that the purpose of schools should be to remove books."

Friedman said this bill, and others passed by the Florida legislature, appear to press ignorance instead of encouraging students to seek out new knowledge.

The bill would also put a 12-year school board term limit in place.

Bailey LeFever is a reporter focusing on education and health in the greater Tampa Bay region.
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