Manatee County teachers cover up books in fear of prosecution

The Manatee County School District instructed teachers to cover their bookshelves until their...
The Manatee County School District instructed teachers to cover their bookshelves until their books were verified to fit the new guidelines of HB 1467.(Anonymous)
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 7:20 PM EST
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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) - The Manatee County School Board is preparing for a workshop that carries a lot of weight on Friday. The representatives will be given a full breakdown of the state’s criteria for approved books in their schools.

Teachers and staff received a message from district officials last week which instructed them to remove or cover all classroom libraries until the books could be reviewed. In order to avoid felony prosecution for potentially possessing a book that might not meet those guidelines, teachers covered their bookshelves.

The President of the Manatee Education Association Pat Barber said she feels this new law is disrespectful to educators.

“The training and education that teachers receive—the credibility of that has been diminished over, and over, and over again. Teachers are trained to know what’s developmentally appropriate for their students. They select books based on the training that they get. So, this is another layer where the teacher’s professionalism is being questioned,” said Barber.

Ashley Daymon is a former teacher and current mother to two Manatee County students. She said the state is risking losing a lot of teachers by implementing these new laws.

“The third-degree felony would be the icing on the cake. If you were on the fence about staying or not staying, that would be it. Every single one of them have said this year is the hardest they’ve done in their careers and most of them are 20 to 25+ year teachers,” said Daymon.

Jessica Thomason has two students who are in the Sarasota County School District. She believes there are rare occasions where an inappropriate book is found in a school library, but not enough to implement statewide regulations.

“I’m sure you could dig around and find some weird example of something. But, by and large, I have never seen anything that is even remotely controversial,” said Thomason.

Thomason said seeing the photos of teachers in Manatee County covering up their bookshelves has been upsetting.

“I think it’s made everybody a little bit on edge. I’m sure the district is trying to be overly cautious to protect their teachers. There’s always going to be something that slips through the cracks. It’s just impossible to vet that,” she said.

The Manatee County School Board workshop is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. at their headquarters in Bradenton.

The public is welcome to attend.

For the workshop’s agenda packet and book guidelines click here.