Florida school book bans would cost $100 each under proposed bill

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By Giselle Balido

January 25, 2024

The bill has received bipartisan support from House members and has advanced through two committees.

Following a growing national backlash, Florida Republicans appear to be acknowledging missteps and backing off support for school book bans spurred by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ war on “woke” agenda that seeks to limit discussions of race and LGTBQ themes in K-12 public school classrooms. 

The state’s Republican legislature appears concerned that DeSantis’ agenda is backfiring, and lawmakers are considering new rules to limit how many challenges can be brought by individuals. 

Legislators recently introduced a new plan (House Bill 7025) to restrain frivolous challenges to books. The potential solution would allow local schools to charge a $100 fee to those who object to more than five books or who submit an objection to a book but don’t have a child enrolled in the school where the book is located, according to Politico.

School districts would ultimately return the money to individuals if their objections were upheld.

RELATED: Florida Leads the Nation in Book Bans Under DeSantis’ Leadership

Narrow in scope, broad in implication

DeSantis and Florida Republicans passed legislation over the past two years making it easier for parents to challenge books in school libraries that they deem pornographic, harmful to minors, or otherwise inappropriate for students. Under the expanded law passed in 2023, schools are required to pull challenged books from shelves within five days and keep them out of circulation for the duration of any challenge. If school officials decide a book is inappropriate, it can be permanently removed from circulation or restricted to certain grade levels.

The law led to a significant backlash, as some teachers and school officials found themselves overwhelmed by challenges.

DeSantis has repeatedly dismissed the idea of book bans as “a hoax.” Yet Florida holds the No. 1 position in banning books in schools, with 1,406 bans reported across the state during the 2022-23 school year according to PEN America, an organization dedicated to protecting free expression. That number amounts to 40% of the entire nationwide total.

However, records show that of the approximately 1,100 complaints recorded in Florida between July 2022 and August 2023, about 600 came from just two people — a Clay County father and a Pensacola high school teacher. This suggests, according to the Tampa Bay Times review, that although the state’s book banning movement is narrow in scope, a tiny minority of activists can “overwhelm” school districts.

Additionally, many of the complaints have been brought by members of Moms for Liberty, a far-right group. 

Over 75% of the books banned were specifically written and selected for younger audiences and include characters of color and themes of race and racism, and characters who represent LGBTQ+ identities, including a transgender character.

Republican state Rep. Dana Trabulsy, who sponsored the newly proposed legislation, said “I think [book challengers] really need to be respectful of the number of books that they are pouring into schools at one time.”

The bill received bipartisan support from House members and has advanced in the House through two committees. At this time, however, the Florida Senate is not considering similar legislation. 

RELATED: How One County Is Teaching Kids to Be Critical Thinkers in DeSantis’ Florida

 

 

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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