Lee County School Libraries Censored by Legislation 

Nine Months Later, Hundreds of Distinguished Books Were Removed From Shelves in Area Schools

Alex McNamee, Contributing Writer

Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law House Bill 1467 on March 25, 2022. This law, which went into effect on July 1, requires school districts to “be transparent in the selection of instructional materials and library and reading materials. This legislation preserves the right of parents to make decisions about what materials their children are exposed to in school.”  

DeSantis signed HB 1467 into law as part of his Year of the Parent initiative.

“In Florida, our parents have every right to be involved in their child’s education,” DeSantis stated on his website. “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.” 

This bill requires that all schoolbooks must be reviewed by an employee of the district who holds a valid certificate as an educational media specialist. According to the law, this is to  ensure that all books being used to teach in schools are free of pornography or certain race-based teachings.

While the law states that it is banning pornography and certain teachings, many Americans believe there is a deeper plan to the bill. A study done by Huffington Post showed that 87% of Americans are against the bill. In another study done by the American Library Association, over 71% of Americans are against the bill. 

Teachers are required to undergo training on what books are allowed for their classrooms, and if caught teaching these books, they face a third-degree felony charge. 

“According to the Florida Statutes, the maximum sentence for a third-degree felony conviction is five years in prison,” reads the Moses and Rooth Criminal Defense Lawyers website. “The judge can also give you a $5,000 fine and put you on probation for five years. This is true even if you are facing a third-degree felony in Florida first offense.”

A Lee County high school history teacher spoke about the law. She asked not to be named due to the fear of losing her job for answering questions on this controversial bill. 

“So in Lee County specifically, we haven’t received a list of verified books but we’re being told that we will get one soon,” she said. “If you scan your library, and your book knocks out or gets knocked out you have to put it away and if you get caught using it you risk going to jail.”

“It’s been weird, we don’t know what we can and can’t teach, our tests have changed, so we have to follow a certain curriculum. The curriculum changed but we were never told it  changed, so there are certain things that we have taught every year that we can no longer teach,  for example red lining which is the concept of why poor areas are poor versus rich areas and all  that fun stuff.” 

The teacher mentions parts of the history curriculum have been censored.

“There is a bunch of stuff that has been taken out of our curriculum that kind of alters the view of history,” she said. “History is a story, so if you take away half of the information, you don’t know what happened. For me personally history is being wiped out, but I can’t say we are not still teaching it. At the end of the day, it’s history, it happened, and it’s important for students to know that it happened because it could happen again, it is happening again every day.” 

So far in Florida, there have been over 600 books banned. For many librarians and  teachers, they are staring at empty bookshelves out of fear of risking jail time.

“The book ban is something that happened during the Cold War,” she said. “All of the stuff that we’re seeing happen, is stuff that’s already happened that we fought to end, but here we are now  starting it ourselves.”

“If you think about it, many of the books that we read in school that were required readings are now getting banned. It kind of gets us thinking like, ‘Why? What’s the point? What’s the goal? Is the goal to keep our kids dumb?’ Because if so, it’s working. At the same time, students are fighting against it in a lot of ways, because they realize it’s not what should be happening. I’m hoping that when it comes time for them to vote that they’ve learned enough to make the right decision. I always teach my students that both sides have good and bad, but banning books, that’s something that Hitler did to rise to power.” 

Some books banned so far have included “The Hate You Give”, “The Bluest Eye”, and “Out of Darkness.”  All of these books were written by people of color and look to show the struggles that people of color face. 

Another community that has come under fire due to this law are people who identify as  LGBTQ+ and their supporters. With tensions rising with far-right groups and conservatives  around the state regarding the LGBTQ+ community, many books that have been taken off the  shelves have included books written by queer authors, and stories about coming out. 

“This Book is Gay,” which is a book that was written to help young people with the fear of coming out and not being afraid of who they are, was just banned in Florida. One woman attending the meeting claimed, “LGBTQ+ people are pedophiles who are preying on children by discussing issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

Some other books that have been banned include, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Lovely Bones,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Gift of Ramadan,” “The Berenstain Bears and the Big Question,” “Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog,” “The Life of Rosa Parks,” “Pink is for Boys,” “The Sound of Silence,” “Shoulder for Equality,” “Of Mice and Men,” “To Kill a  Mockingbird,” and many more. 

The DeSantis Administration put out a statement on its website claiming the empty bookshelves were propaganda set up by the leftists and mainstream media for political theater.  

“Exposing the ‘book ban’ hoax is important because it reveals that some are attempting to use  our schools for indoctrination,” read the statement. “In Florida, pornographic and inappropriate materials that have been snuck into our classrooms and libraries to sexualize our students violate our state education  standards. Florida is the education state and that means providing students with a quality education free from sexualization and harmful materials that are not age appropriate.” 

The DeSantis Administration was contacted for comment on the bill, including his office and his external affairs office, and no reply was given.