DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Calling it a "really significant win for parents in the state of Florida," Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed into law a measure that gives parents and guardians more freedom to challenge the types of books that are in school libraries and on school reading lists.
HB 1467 — formally called the "K-12 Education" measure — was dubbed by DeSantis the "strongest curriculum transparency legislation in the country."
The bill bans the use of any instructional materials in classrooms, in school libraries, or on school reading lists that are "pornographic" or "not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group for which the material is used."
The measure allows parents to review a school district's instructional materials and library books and lodge objections if they believe the subject matter violates state standards or is inappropriate for students.
"When you're talking about some of these kids, particularly these young kids, to have some of this graphic stuff in there is not in the best interest of the families and of the students," DeSantis said Friday during a news conference at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. "Parents are gonna have the ability to have their voice heard."
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During Friday's address, DeSantis referenced several books on gender identity and sexual orientation that should not be permitted in schools.
"Unfortunately, we've seen some books in some of these libraries," DeSantis said. "You're talking about kids in middle school. Some of the stuff that's ended up there, incredibly, incredibly disturbing stuff."
Under the "K-12 Education" measure, each school board must establish a system that allows parents or residents to contest educational materials.
"The parent or resident must file a petition, on a form provided by the school board, within 30 calendar days after the adoption of the instructional material by the school board," the bill reads.
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In addition, any materials in a school library or on school reading lists must be reviewed by a school district employee holding a valid educational media specialist certificate.
"If that's something that's gonna be used, then that's something that a parent would have the right to understand and know that's going out there," DeSantis said.
The Florida Education Association — the largest teachers' union in the state — said that in passing the bill, DeSantis and certain legislators have "prioritized their own political ambitions," instead of focusing on more critical issues like addressing teacher and staffing shortages in schools statewide.
"By choosing to focus on issues that divide us as Floridians instead of those that unite us, he is not only setting a bad example for our state’s youth, but also undermining their future by making the teacher and staff shortage even worse," said FEA President Andrew Spar in a written statement to WPTV.
The measure is the latest push from Florida's governor to give parents and guardians more control over what their children are exposed to in school.
DeSantis is expected to sign HB 1557/SB 1834 — formally called the "Parental Rights In Education" measure, but more commonly known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill — into law, which bans "instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity" in kindergarten through third grade, or in a "manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students."
It's important to note that lessons on sexual orientation or gender identity are currently not being taught in any kindergarten through third grade classrooms in the state, as they are not part of the CPALMS educational standards from the Florida Department of Education.
"There is a debate in the country about what role parents have in the education of their kids," DeSantis said Friday. "We believe parents not only have a role, they have a fundamental role to be involved in the education of their kids."
The "K-12 Education" bill also caps the term limit for school board members at 12 consecutive years.
The measure officially goes into effect on July 1.