Moms for Liberty members are advising Florida librarians on school books

Moms for Liberty members are advising Florida librarians on school books

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By Giselle Balido

March 18, 2024

Opponents see it as the state’s willingness to cater to the ultra-conservative group which has long supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ draconian book ban policies.

Moms for Liberty members made up half of a Department of Education workgroup that met last week in Tallahassee to advise school districts on how to select book titles and when to pull them off school library shelves.

In what opponents see as the state’s willingness to cater to the ultra-conservative group which has long supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ book ban policies, the state government-sponsored group included Priscilla West, chair of Moms for Liberty Leon County, Moms for Liberty Indian River County Chapter Chair Jennifer Pippin, and Jamie Merchant, Florida legislative chair for the national group.

The March 14 group’s stated purpose was to redesign an online training program for school librarians and media specialists. 

The original online training program created in 2023 warned that school officials could be charged with a third-degree felony if materials were found harmful to minors. This led school districts to “err on the side of caution” by pulling hundreds of titles out of fear of potential penalties, making Florida No.1 in “book bans” across the nation.

The workgroup, however, didn’t alter the original presentation’s wording, instead arguing for the incorporation of a measure that can make it easier to get a challenged book removed for so-called “sexual conduct.”

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

For example, the group agreed on adding a slide about the new criteria, which requires that a book be removed within five days of a challenge and until the complaint is resolved. Additionally, audio will be added to the training program to explain that people can file sexual conduct objections.

Opponents argue that these changes don’t explain the new law and only add to the confusion surrounding book bans. Instead, it “will encourage more removals,” warns Stephana Ferrell, co-founder and director of research and insight for the Florida Freedom to Read Project.

At this time, it has not been announced when or if the workgroup will meet again.

A clear target

After DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill in March of 2022 prohibiting school instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, some of the most frequently targeted titles included those dealing with LGBTQ content like gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as books that touch on racial issues, especially those that cover the history of slavery and racial discrimination in the US.

In fact, prior to the workgroup’s meeting, the Facebook page for Priscilla West’s chapter of Moms for Liberty asked parents to challenge titles with purported sexual and LGBTQ material, among them “Felix Ever After,” a young adult novel about a transgender teen which won a Stonewall Book Award.

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

“Why are they banning these books? Because they make the right-wing conservatives uncomfortable,” State Rep. Yvonne Hinson, who represents Florida’s 20th District, told Floricua last year. 

Books removed across the Sunshine State include “Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation,” and classics like Toni Morrison’s award-winning “Beloved.” 

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.

CATEGORIES: EDUCATION
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