DeSantis Signs Bill Requiring Transparency From Schools On Reading Materials
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

On the heels of national outcry over sexually explicit books in school libraries, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Friday requiring schools to be transparent with parents about instructional reading materials.

“In Florida, our parents have every right to be involved in their child’s education,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are not going to let politicians deny parents the right to know what is being taught in our schools. I’m proud to sign this legislation that ensures curriculum transparency.”

The bill comes in “the Year of the Parent,” the governor’s office said in a press release, noting that the legislation is focused on empowering parents to make decisions about what their children are exposed to.

The legislation, which also sets 12-year term limits for school board members, requires schools to “notice” and keep meetings on the selection of school instructional materials open to the public.

School districts must provide parents with access to all the proposed materials at least 20 days before the school board takes official action, according to the bill, and the state Department of Education (DOE) must publish a list of the removed or discontinued materials.

“School district library media center materials and assigned school or grade-level reading lists must also be reviewed by a district employee holding a valid educational media specialist certificate and require DOE to develop an online training program for librarians and media specialists,” the governor’s office said in a press release.

The press release notes that the superintendent of schools in every district will be required to certify to the DOE commissioner that media center specialists and school librarians have taken the training.

“While teachers, school administrators, and school board members have a tremendous amount of authority over what and how our kids are taught in school, at the end of the day, parents — not schools — are responsible for raising children,” Senate President Wilton Simpson said in a statement.

“Florida parents are seeking greater involvement in many aspects of our education system, and this legislation speaks to that effort,” he added. “The books our kids are reading in schools need to have proper vetting. Parents have a right, and a responsibility, to be involved in that process.”

Florida’s House Speaker Chris Sprowls promised that the legislation would “improve accountability, curriculum transparency and trust,” noting that the addition of term limits helps to “weaken any political motives and shifts the focus of school boards back to the best interests of our children, as it should be.”

One parent said in a statement provided by the governor’s office that she had recently discovered a “pornographic” book in her child’s high school in Orange County, Florida.

The parent was referring to books like “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, which were both removed from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia after a parent dramatically read graphic passages aloud during a school board meeting.

“After some research, I learned that an alarming percentage of high school and middle school library books contain similar material,” parent Alicia Farrant said in a statement. “It is appalling that removal of pornographic and sexually explicit books has even been cause for debate.”

“I am thankful for a Governor that has the courage to lead with integrity and to partner with parents as we strive to raise the standard of excellence in our education system,” she added. “Our students deserve to have high quality, academically rich books at their fingertips and under no circumstance should they have access to graphic, pornographic material at school.”

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