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DeSantis calls Florida's book bans a 'hoax,' defends his decision to reject African American course

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at a podium which on the front states "exposing the book ban hoax" in front of multiple rows of people.
Sky Lebron
WUSF Public Media
DeSantis also defended a Florida state law that says that a teacher with a book that contains pornography and sexual material in the classroom could face a third-degree felony, saying that law has been in place for years.

DeSantis started the media conference showing some of the pages from the books that have been flagged.

Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed back Wednesday on what he says is a “hoax” from news outlets claiming the state is banning mass amounts books from school libraries and classrooms.

DeSantis started the news conference in Tampa by showing some of the pages from the books that had been flagged.

The video shows images from books like "Flamer," "Let's Talk About It," and "Gender Queer," which contain sexual images and conversations about sexuality that DeSantis says is inappropriate for children in Florida schools.

"I think if we had the entire state of Florida somehow either sitting in here watching that, I don't think there'll be very many people who honest-to-goodness believes that what was up there is appropriate for our schools," DeSantis said.

He said of the 175 books removed across the state, 87% of them were “identified as pornographic, violent or inappropriate for their grade level.”

DeSantis also said the removal of books on prominent minority figures like Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron in certain districts was done for political reasons and not due to state guidelines.

“That's a false narrative that they're trying to do,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also once again pushed back on criticism the state faced after rejecting an AP African American Studies course, saying the topics focused on critical race theory and Marxism.

“What they would say then, is because this ideologically driven course was not something that met our standards, that somehow Florida prohibited teaching anything about Black history,” DeSantis said. “And that is not only not true, [but] Florida law does the opposite. We require that all the aspects from the colonies all the way to the present.”

A prepared document shared with media members outlined the issues that the Florida Department of Education had with the course:

  • Intersectionality and Activism — the document states “Intersectionality is foundational to CRT, and ranks people based on their race, wealth, gender and sexual orientation.
  • Black Queer Studies — the document quotes a line in the course from Roderick Ferguson, who states “we have to encourage and develop practices whereby queerness isn’t a surrender to the status quos of race, class, gender and sexuality. It means building forms of queerness that reject the given realities of the government and the market.”
  • Movement for Black Lives — the document connects the organization to a quote from Leslie Kay Jones, which reads “Every day, Black people produce an unquantifiable amount of content for the same social media corporations that reproduce the white supremacist superstructures that oppress us.
  • Black Feminist Literary Thought — the document points to a recommended reading for the course from Bell Hooks, which says, “I began to use the phrase in my work ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ because I wanted to have some language that would actually remind us continually of the interlocking systems of domination that define our reality.”
  • The Reparations Movement — the document states that “points and resources” from the course advocate for reparations, with a lack of “balancing opinion.”
  • Black Study and Black Struggle in the 21st Century — the document states that the course argues that activism is the “catalyst for social transformation,” rather than through higher education.

DeSantis was joined by several supporters and state officials, including State Education Secretary Manny Diaz and Hillsborough School Board member Stacy Hahn.
Hahn says she's been pushing to keep certain books off school bookshelves that she believes are inappropriate in the district for the past year.

"It is very difficult to be in the minority on a school board,” Hahn said. “As much as I fight, I have one vote. So that's a lot of the times that is why you see Hillsborough County on lists where these books can be found."

DeSantis also defended a Florida state law that says that a teacher with a book that contains pornography and sexual material in the classroom could face a third-degree felony, saying that law has been in place for years.

“When they're citing that law acting like somehow that's chilling … it's been the law for a long time,” DeSantis said. “I don't think it's ever been appropriate in the history of Florida for adults to be providing pornography to minors.”

This comes after school districts like Manatee County, Duval County, and others across the state have caught national headlines for stripping books from their classroom libraries and media centers, as they work with media specialists to make sure the books meet Florida education laws.

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