Apr 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis signs bill limiting Florida school book challenges

 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks about his new book ‘The Courage to Be Free’ in the Air Force One Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on March 5, 2023 in Simi Valley, California.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law Tuesday a bill that imposes limits on residents without children from challenging books in public schools.

Why it matters: Free speech groups and others have denounced a drive by conservative-led states including Florida to ban books as they move to limit discussions on race and gender, which has left educators scrambling to change lesson plans amid confusion and fear.

  • One school district removed a children's book about baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente to comply with a 2022 state law restricting how topics such as racism and sexual orientation can be taught in schools.
  • DeSantis called that ban over the book addressing racism the Black Puerto Rican player faced in the U.S. "a joke" and an attempt to draw attention.

Details: Under the new law, HB 1285, residents who don't have children in school districts will only be able to challenge one book title in libraries and classrooms per month.

What they're saying: Amid the filing of mass objections to books, DeSantis at a Monday briefing blamed "activists" for trying to make "performative" and "political" points with some challenges.

  • "The idea that someone can use the parents rights and the curriculum transparency to start objecting to every single book to try to make a mockery of this is just wrong," DeSantis said.
  • "And you had examples where books were put under review that are just normal books that have been in education for many many years."

By the numbers: Florida has banned more books than any other state, with literary nonprofit PEN America noting 1,406 cases of books being removed from the shelves from July 1, 2022 to June 31, 2023.

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