DeSantis Signs Bill Refining Book Challenge Law After Abuse by Activists

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis | Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Florida’s governor has tweaked the state’s school book challenge law, creating more limitations due to alleged activist abuse.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) on Tuesday signed a bill amending the 2022 state law that gave any person a say in what books are made available to students in Florida school libraries, citing “activist” abuse of the legislation.

The bill required all elementary schools to provide a searchable list of books available in the library and used for instruction. It also allowed anyone to challenge an unlimited number of books. Challenged books would be removed from the shelf until the district resolved the complaint.

DeSantis claimed that this ability was abused by people with a political agenda.

“The idea that someone can use the parents rights and the curriculum transparency to start objecting to every single book to try to make a mockery of this is just wrong,” DeSantis said earlier this week, per the Associated Press. “That’s performative. That’s political.”

“If you are trying to be an activist, if you’re trying to withdraw valid materials as a way to basically lodge a protest, you’re going to be held accountable for that, because you’re depriving the students of their right to be able to have a good education,” DeSantis said, according to the Florida Phoenix.

Asked by AP for examples of “liberal activists” who were abusing the law, DeSantis spokeswoman Julia Friedland cited Chaz Stevens, a resident of South Florida who is known for criticizing the government. Over the years, Stevens has raised numerous challenges in many school districts across the state regarding the contents of school materials such as the Bible, dictionaries, and thesauruses.

DeSantis signed HB 1285 on April 16 to address this apparent misuse of the ability to challenge books, limiting the number of challenges allowed to individuals like Stevens who do not have children with access to the school district’s materials. A one-challenge-per-month limit will now be imposed upon people who do not have students in the district.

Stevens added his commentary: “When they need to make stupid stupider, they send me up. I’m part comedian, I’m part activist, I’m part artist. I just want a better society.”

“I’m an idiot, but a smart guy at the same time,” added Stevens, per AP.

DeSantis held firm in his views despite criticism.

“… Just as it’s wrong for a school district, an activist teacher, a school union to try to impose an agenda on a student, it’s also wrong for a citizen activist or parent to do these passive-aggressive false challenges to try to act like somehow we don’t want education in Florida,” DeSantis said, per the Florida Phoenix.

However, some believe the issue is not an abuse of the law but a reaction to censorship.

“By continuing to pass bills that are a knife to the heart of our Constitutional protections, Florida lawmakers are not only willing to attack the rights that Americans hold sacred, but they are also wasting taxpayer dollars to try to uphold them,” Katie Blankenship, director of PEN America’s Florida office, said previously.

“As these costs to the taxpayer continue to mount, responsible legislators will hopefully realize that they are burning their constituents’ money and trust,” Blankenship added.

Book challenges have also been an ongoing topic locally. Community members across the metroplex have voiced their concerns about book titles that have failed to meet selection criteria or contain sexually explicit content, as The Dallas Express has covered extensively.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article