DeSantis signs bill targeting explicit books in schools

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Saying that Florida public schools are making sexually explicit books available to children, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Friday to give parents a say in which books schools can and cannot have in their libraries.

This will require all elementary schools to provide a searchable list of all books available in their libraries or used in instruction. School boards must notify the public when considering approving new textbooks and allow anyone to comment. Any objection to the material, by a parent or not, must be reported to the state.

“Unfortunately we’ve seen books in some of these libraries, I mean you’re talking about kids in middle school, some of the stuff that ended up there is incredibly, incredibly disturbing stuff,” DeSantis said. “Parents understand when they see this. They know how to report it.

The bill also sets a 12-year term limit for school board members.

Democrats opposed the bill during the legislative session that ended earlier this month, saying it amounted to censorship and likened it to burning books. But it aligns with DeSantis’ agenda to crush school district decisions he disagrees with.

“You have bands that want to take away classic books like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ but they want things like ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir,’ which is a cartoon-style book with graphic images of kids performing sexual acts. That’s not true,” DeSantis said. “They want to eliminate ‘Of Mice and Men’, but ‘Lawn Boy’, a book with explicit passages of pedophilia is somehow accepted.”

Democratic state Rep. Angie Nixon said the bill is part of the governor’s culture wars designed to help him win the 2024 Republican nomination for president.

“The Governor’s actions today and his words illustrate his political ambitions. He cares more about rallying a base of people who will support him in a future presidential bid than making sure Floridians have access to housing, have access to quality health care,” she said. “The bill he signed today is going to cause more stress and strain on school systems.”

The books DeSantis mentioned were political hot spots in Texas and Virginia and were pulled from libraries. Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigned on the issue.

“Gender Queer” is an autobiography by Maia Kobabe, who was born female but now identifies as non-binary and asexual. The School Library Journal described it as “a book to be savored rather than devoured, this memoir will resonate with teenagers”.

“It’s also a great resource for those who identify as non-binary or asexual as well as those who know someone who identifies this way and want to understand more,” the review continues.

“Lawn Boy” is a semi-autobiographical novel by Jonathan Evison. The Washington Post said: ‘Evison takes a ram for race and class stereotypes’ and said he was ‘peak of angst and anger, but also full of humor and lots of hope’ .

After a controversy over the book, Evison said he received death threats and explained that a passage that some find objectionable is not about pedophilia, but rather an adult character remembering a sexual encounter he had. in fourth grade with another fourth grader.

DeSantis also used the bill signing ceremony to speak out against critical race theory in schools, school mask mandates and Dr. Anthony Fauci. He also encouraged people to pay attention to the school board races and to elect the members.

“Florida now joins places like Russia and China, modern examples of what happens when freedom of thought and free speech are severely restricted at all levels of society, including in schools. “, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book said in a statement. “As a mother and former teacher – and simply an American who appreciates free speech – it’s a very, very scary place.”

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