Books Removed from DCPS Classrooms amidst Literacy Week
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Books Removed from DCPS Classrooms amidst Literacy Week

- edited by: Caitlin Baiata

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Duval County Public Schools and Gov. Ron DeSantis are playing a game of chicken. Our children and teachers are standing in the middle of the road.

By Caitlin Baiata

On January 26th all books were removed from children’s classrooms throughout Duval County Public Schools. Children and teachers came home in tears. Amidst the chaos of a deplorable rollout to new statutory guidelines, Duval County remains an absolute anomaly in its actions to remove books from the classrooms mid-year. My first reaction was rage when I heard my Kindergartener would not be allowed to bring home his guided reading books, and my 3rd grader was not allowed to read the novel she and her classmates were reading as a novel study in ELA. Sheer outrage followed.

I have spent hours on the phone with our local district 2 School Board Member April Carney, spoken with my children’s principal, Regional Superintendent Randall Strickland, and members of St. John’s County Public School System. Here is what I have discovered.

Duval district has listed on its website that it is erring “on the side of caution” in its decision to pull the books. The decision was made in response to new state regulations including HB 1467 and FL Statute 847.012 (please follow the links to read about the bills below). Essentially, HB 1467 is calling for a major book audit of all public school books in the school libraries and classrooms. Among many things, the bill seeks to ensure that all books are “free of pornography… suited to student needs, and appropriate for grade level…” (K-12 Education, 2022). The bill was amended to further extend the “audit” to school classroom libraries. FL Statute 847.012 charges anyone knowingly distributing to minors “Any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film, videocassette, or similar visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity or sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sexual battery, bestiality, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors; or (b) … explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, or sexual conduct and that is harmful to minors” (Harmful Materials, 2008) with a 3rd degree felony.

A logical response, when your child comes home telling you all the books have been removed from the classroom is to reach out to other friends. First I reached out to friends locally who had children in the Duval Public School System… there was a unanimous, “us too”. However, when I asked parents who have children in charter schools here in Duval they still had books in their classrooms. Charter schools are public schools- shouldn’t they have to adhere to the same policy? The confusion grew when I heard from friends in other school districts. Their children still had books. What was going on? I reached out to our local school board member, April Carney. Carney was as frustrated and confused with the roll out as I was. She has spent hours consoling teachers who are afraid they were going to go to jail for having books like Captain Underpants in their classrooms.

Why aren’t teachers in Duval Charter Schools equally concerned? Why aren’t teachers in other public schools in other counties in tears and fearful of their jobs? While I cannot answer these questions directly at the moment, I have my hunches. Members of the school board in St. John’s County told me they simply needed to have procedures in place to demonstrate they are adhering to the new state requirements. These laws are statewide, why aren’t other districts implementing the same protocols? I think this is an important question to ask- and I strongly encourage you to write to your local school board members and ask it.

At the February 7, 2023 the DCPS School Board meeting I asked that very question on record. Superintendent Dr. Greene quickly brushed over the fact that books had been removed and covered up in the classrooms. After several other parents spoke up against the books being removed, Council Members Joyce of Dist. 6 and Carney of Dist. 2 both made requests for the record that we host a special workshop related to our policy on books and clarification for HB 1467 and 847.012 on felony charges. Carney stated on record, “We need to trust our teachers and faculty,” and went on to complain about the rollout.

Parents, grandparents, citizens of Jacksonville, we should all be outraged. I still do not know who specifically has instructed our teachers in Duval to cover all classroom books…but please know- I’m a parent at an A school. I know my teachers and faculty are working around the clock to get books back into their classrooms. But our public school district is making this process as difficult as possible. For parents who have children in other school districts- where maybe the teacher doesn’t have time to scan the daily edited excel file the district updates on allowable books…where does this rollout leave those teachers and those children? Please, ask the uncomfortable questions. We must stop this lunacy. Write to Dr. Greene- she is behind these archaic policies.

Reference Entry:

  1. K-12 Education, HB 1467, 2022 https://flsenate.gov/Committees/BillSummaries/2022/html/2823
  2. Harmful materials; sale or distribution to minors or using minors in production prohibited; penalty, XLVI Crimes, 2008 https://flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2022/847.012

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2 Responses

  1. April Carney is “confused” why the bill signed into law by her friend Ron DeSantis calling for books to be audited in our classrooms, and threatening our teachers with a felony is actually happening? Does she know how laws work? You can’t stand next to someone to get elected and then claim ignorance to the agenda you aligned with.

  2. I believe Caitalin said what so many of us are thinking! What State representative thinks he/she has the right to deny our kids and citizens the right to read books which before were assigned reading when us older generation were going to school. To white wash history because he, DeSantis doesn’t like the truth and will not allow the truth to be told is a sad state of our Democracy. I was applauded to see the books he is pushing, total lies!
    We are taking Action for the rights of the people ! Freedom must be allowed period!

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