On January 18th, 2023, the Florida State Board of Education approved a rule to carry out a new state…

On January 18th, 2023, the Florida State Board of Education approved a rule to carry out a new state law that requires school-library employees to complete training sessions in order to increase scrutiny of library books and instructional materials.[0] The training emphasizes the need to focus on content that would be harmful to minors and to avoid any sort of unsolicited theories that may lead to the brainwashing of students. Furthermore, librarians are expected to err on the side of caution when making their selections, as anything deemed pornographic or inappropriate for age groups must be avoided.

While teachers and librarians have traditionally used their professional training to determine what material is age-appropriate and listened to input from parents and students, the current law is very broadly worded, limiting what books can and cannot be in schools.[1] Teachers who do not comply face penalties.[1]

This is seen in the case of a Holocaust-themed novel by bestselling author Jodi Picoult, which was among dozens of books removed from a South Florida school district library’s circulation last month in the latest example of books with Jewish themes getting swept up amid the conservative-led effort to police potentially inappropriate material in classrooms.[2] Judy Blume’s coming-of-age novel “Forever,” and Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a book about a boy whose father perished in the 9/11 terror attacks, were among the works by Jewish authors that were removed.[3]

It doesn’t stop there; a textbook publisher attempted to gain approval from Florida state regulators by removing all references to Rosa Parks’ race in materials submitted for review.[4] They also changed a fourth-grade lesson about segregation laws by eliminating almost every direct mention of race and instead stating that it was illegal for “men of certain groups” to be unemployed and that “certain groups of people” were not allowed to serve on a jury. The Florida Department of Education suggested that Studies Weekly had overreached, stating that any book that “avoids the topic of race when teaching the Civil Rights movement, slavery, segregation, etc. would not be adhering to Florida law.”[5]

In response to the parental complaint, the Holocaust-themed novel was removed from the school in Martin County and placed in the district’s middle schools.

0. “Florida Board of Education limits books allowed in classrooms and libraries” FSView & Florida Flambeau, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.fsunews.com/story/news/2023/03/13/fl-board-of-education-limits-books-allowed-in-classrooms-and-libraries/69976331007

1. “What Florida Doesn’t Want You to Know About Its Book Bans” The Daily Beast, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/what-florida-doesnt-want-you-to-know-about-its-book-bans

2. “Jodi Picoult book banned: Holocaust novel cut from library in Florida” The Jewish Chronicle, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.thejc.com/news/world/jodi-picoult-holocaust-novel-banned-from-school-in-inappropriate-books-row-5ciENrdr4HmK7DDw21I4ku

3. “Jodi Picoult Holocaust book removed as school district purges libraries” The Jerusalem Post, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/article-734244

4. “Florida textbook publisher removes mention of Rosa Parks’s race from section about the Black civil rights icon” Boing Boing, 17 Mar. 2023, https://boingboing.net/2023/03/17/florida-textbook-publisher-removes-mention-of-rosa-parkss-race-from-section-about-the-black-civil-rights-icon.html

5. “Florida Scoured Math Textbooks for ‘Prohibited Topics.’ Next Up: Social Studies.” Yahoo News, 16 Mar. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/florida-scoured-math-textbooks-prohibited-121246612.html

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