Manatee Schools send communication for principals to vet books in classrooms

Sarasota Schools say they worked with staff at beginning of school year on new expectations
ABC7 News at 5pm
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 3:32 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 4:14 PM EST
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BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee County Schools Spokesperson Michael Barber confirms that communication has been sent to principals of schools to vet books teachers have in their classroom.

In December, House Bill 1467 stated that School Library and Instructional Materials requires school district to adopt procedures for determining and reviewing content for library media centers. This has been extended to books in the classroom. Educators who reached out to ABC7 say that their books are being inspected Friday and books that don’t meet the guidelines will be removed.

All books in teacher classrooms must be vetted to determine they have been approved. The Department of Education must publish and update a list of materials that were removed or discontinued by district school boards as a result of an objection and disseminate the list to school districts for consideration in their instructional materials selection.

A communication sent to ABC7 by Manatee Schools lays out the following expectations. They have not yet released publicly the communication sent to principals this week.

You can read the guidance in its entirety below:

Per the new statutory changes to House Bill 1467 - Section 1006.40 (3) (d), F.S. All material in school and classroom libraries or included on a reading list must be:

1. Free of Pornography and material prohibited under S. 847.012, F.S.

2. Suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented.

3. Appropriate for the grade level and age group for which the materials are used and made available.

Each elementary school must publish on its website, in a searchable format prescribed by the department, a list of all materials maintained in the school library media center or required as part of a school or grade-level reading list.

Penalty for Violating Section 847.012, F.S. Any person violating any provision of this section commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in S. 775.082, S. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

To protect librarians and media specialist, it must be clear that a book depicting nudity, sexual conduct, or sexual excitement does not meet the tenets of “Harmful to minors” (s.847.001, F.S.).

Therefore, each district in the State of Florida must comply with these new statutory requirements. We are seeking volunteers to assist with vetting and compiling website list so all classroom books can be used by students.

ABC7 check in with Sarasota County Schools to see how they enforced the same curriculum. A spokesperson for the schools said that preliminary instruction was handed out to staff members at the beginning of the school year, following a temporary hold on donation and new purchases of library materials.

The district began accepting limited donations again in late fall. Community partners and organizations that offered opportunities for students and families to have access to books and reading programs had their materials reviewed and approved by district-level staff who also have Media Specialist certification. In these cases, the programs and materials were shared with parents and families who were all provided the opportunity to opt out if they chose. There have not been any approvals for the purchase of new library books or approvals for donations of new library books. In the meantime, officials are looking to hire a media specialist to comply with new rules.