Florida enforces greater scrutinity of school library books

DORAL, FL – School librarians must now be cautious when choosing and recommending school library books to students since they could be committing a crime if they loan out materials to be considered “harmful to minors”, the Florida Department of Education said.

They are prohibited from using any instructional materials that include critical race theory, culturally responsive teaching, social-emotional learning, social justice, “and any other unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination are prohibited,” according to the training they now must undergo.

“It is good practice to assess whether or not you as an adult making book selection decisions would be comfortable reading aloud the material in question in a public meeting,” a narrator said in a state-issued training video.

“If you would not be comfortable reading the material in a public setting, then you should lean towards not making the material available in a public school library for children,” the narrator adds.

In the training, librarians are warned that if the books selected by them contain “any description or representation of nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement” in violation of state law, that could be a felony.

“Please remember, a violation of the harmful to minors statute is a crime,” the training video narrator said. According to the state guidance, a book is considered to be “harmful” if “taken as a whole the material is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors”.

In addition, school librarians also have to seek feedback from parents before buying books and have to defend their choices in case of objections since under the proposed standards, districts have to report which materials parents or residents have objected to that year.

The new guidance for district staff is to “err on the side of caution” when choosing books for school libraries.

All of this is part of a new state law of the Department of Education in which certified media specialists should be the ones to choose school library materials, including for classroom libraries.

School media specialists have specialized training and advanced education in the development, management and organization of library collections. They are directed to review the list of books that have been removed or flagged, and “carefully consider them before purchasing.”

Every year, starting this July, superintendents are required to report to the state education department whether all librarians have undergone the training. Districts are also required to adopt procedures to permit a parent or resident to object to the adoption or use of any instructional material.


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