While the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has gotten the lion's share of media coverage and public scrutiny this legislative season, it’s not the only anti-LGBT bill that threatens to erase the queer community in schools.
On March 25 Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law allowing parents the ability to challenge books they disagree within school. According to WPTV the governor pointed out several books on gender identity and sexual orientation that should not be permitted.
CS/HB 1467 imposes school board term limits and grants parents and others the ability to object to books they don’t like in school libraries and the classroom, according to Florida Politics.
DeSantis has made so-called parental rights a signature issue of his, this legislative session. He also signed the “Parents Bill of Rights” that allowed parents to opt-out of school masking.
“In Florida, we believe parents not only have a role, but a fundamental role in the education of their kids,” DeSantis said.
Equality Florida slammed DeSantis’ effort to censor LGBT history, families, and stories.
“Governor Ron DeSantis continues his censorship and surveillance agenda by signing HB 1467, which anti-LGBTQ proponents have touted as an opportunity to ban more books in schools,” Equality Florida said in a statement. “The legislation weaponizes the Department of Education, requiring it to publish a list of books banned by any school district and circulate the list to all other districts. This is an attempt to deprive even more students of access to educational materials, regardless of whether their parents want them to have access to those books.
“We won’t be erased. Equality Florida calls on all school districts to ensure that schools remain safe and inclusive spaces for all students, including LGBTQ students, to learn and succeed.”
The book banning bill requires school districts to list all library and instructional materials in an online database, with a multi-step review process before adoption, including a mandatory public hearing and a “reasonable” opportunity for public comment, Florida Politics reported.
It also requires elementary schools to hire a Department of Education-trained media specialist to review the materials and compel school districts to report materials and books that the public objects to. The DOE would then publish that list for circulation to guide content management decisions, including withdrawing texts deemed objectionable.
The so-called “curriculum transparency” is another thing DeSantis supports, calling it the “strongest curriculum transparency legislation in the country” for schools and their libraries.
“This is going to be a really significant win for parents in the state of Florida,” DeSantis claimed.
Parents can now object to materials that “deviates from state standards” or is “inappropriate,” citing “really graphic stuff” that kids have access to, even in middle school.
Alicia Farrant, who is running for the Orange County School Board and spoke at the signing, described one LGBT memoir as a “disturbing pornographic book,” according to the Orange Observer.
The book in question was “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. On March 22, Dan Kois interviewed the author about the memoir and what is now being deemed “inappropriate” in books.
“I’ve always had this philosophy as a parent, based on the books that I read as a child, which did skew very heavily toward the ‘inappropriate,’” Kois said. “The philosophy is, there really is no such thing as an inappropriate book for a teen. Even when kids read books that are way beyond their comprehension or that include adult material, they’ll be fine. Nevertheless, now I have teenagers, and whenever I look at the stuff that my kids are actually reading or consuming, I still get the heebie-jeebies about, like, ‘My sweet baby’s reading about a strap-on!’ I think that’s a really common reaction that parents have. So what is a more healthy way for me to think about my kids reading stuff that nonetheless makes me feel weird?”
Kobabe answered: “I think a lot of parents’ gut reaction is, like, ‘Oh, no. I must protect them.’ They’re growing adults and you want them to be prepared for the world and engaged with the world and curious and thoughtful about the world. And in many ways, I think encountering a difficult subject in literature is just about the safest place that you can engage with it. I think it’s less shocking sometimes than film because you aren’t seeing moving images of human actors acting something out. And it’s of course safer and less immediate than experiencing that first-hand in their own lives.”