Gosh, it seems like we just shared an awesome story of how the "parental rights" people are ruining public schools and making good teachers want to say the hell with it. But with schools reopening across the country in this year of the Big Hissy, we figure we may as well be prepared to bring you regular updates on the Republican war on public education. Put on your fireproof underpants and join us!
Florida: Sorry, No New Books. Those Things Are Dangerous!
All around Florida, school districts are putting off purchases of new books and other materials in school libraries until January, thanks to HB 1467, a new law requiring "transparency" for books and media kids have access to in schools, with the aim of ridding schools of all the pornography rightwing parents are certain The Left is making available to children. As HuffPo explains, the new law
requires a certified media specialist to inspect all public school material to ensure its appropriateness for children based on their age level and whether the material can be considered potentially harmful. It also requires elementary schools to publish online a list of the books and reading material they make available to students. Books can then be removed from schools if a parent or county resident petitions for their removal.
There's just the teensiest problem: The state-approved training for media specialists won't actually begin until January 2023, but the law is in effect for the current school year. Therefore, school districts, nervous about being out of compliance with standards they can't possibly meet, are just plain not allowing new materials in the schools, to be on the safe side.
In Brevard County, some schools cancelled Scholastic Book Fairs that are usually held at the start of the school year, and at least one school system asked teachers to cull anything from classroom libraries that wasn't part of the approved curriculum, or which discussed sexual orientation or gender identity. Florida Today reports on a presentation that
instructs teachers to place “under construction” signs where their classroom libraries would be and to make them “cute.”Hooray school children! You can pretend your classroom is a GeoCities website in 1998, although it's entirely likely even your
teacher isn't old enough to get that joke.
Brevard Schools Superintendent Mark Mullins said there was no district-wide order banning book fairs or classroom libraries, but apparently some schools acted on their own. That's one of the great things about fascism, isn't it? People will shut things down all on their own if they're afraid enough.
In the Tampa Bay area, the Sarasota County School District told principals in all district schools to prohibit any new materials in school libraries and in classroom libraries — regardless of whether books are donated or purchased by teachers — until January. The district is allowing Scholastic Book Fairs that have already been scheduled to go forward, district spokesperson Kelsey Whealy explained to WTSP-TV, but any schools that haven't already scheduled a book fair will have to wait until spring.
Scholastic book orders will still be allowed if parents can review the form beforehand and the books aren’t purchased for use in the classroom or school library, according to Whealy.
HuffPo clarifies a bit further, noting that Whealy also explained any books purchased via Scholastic orders have to be taken home and can't be left on school grounds. As far as we can tell, parents must provide their kids with a plain brown wrapper from home.
Texas: Anne Frank Adaptation Dragged From Hiding, Deported To The East
In Texas, the Keller Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to adopt a new set of standards for selecting — and more importantly, removing — books in the schools. After the new standards were put in place, schools were ordered to remove 41 books that had already survived challenges in the past year, but under the previous, presumably not-pure-enough standards. All 41 of the books need to be re-examined to make sure they won't poison young minds, and this time they won't be evaluated by a bunch of people with loose morals, we guess.
The Texas Tribune acquired a copy of an email sent to school principals by Jennifer Price, Keller ISD’s executive director of curriculum and instruction:
“Attached is a list of all books that were challenged last year. By the end of today, I need all books pulled from the library and classrooms. Please collect these books and store them in a location. (book room, office, etc.)." [...]
Attached to the email was a list of 41 book titles to be removed, including all versions of the Bible and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe, which depicts Kobabe’s journey of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Last year, a school district committee had already evaluated the books and returned many of them to school libraries, including The Bluest Eye and the Anne Frank adaptation. Gender Queer didn't make the cut, big surprise, but yes, schools are being told to remove it even if it's not there. Dirty filthy LGBTQ books are a lot like Major Major Major Major that way, and for some reasons these stories have us thinking of Catch-22 a lot. The censors will no doubt remember to come for it and Slaughterhouse-Five eventually.
In any case, a new school board was elected in May, with three new members endorsed by a rightwing group calling itself Christian, so the books need to be looked at again for filth the previous committee may have missed because it wasn't looking closely enough. After a second comprehensive review, the Bible will be returned to school shelves, and maybe some of the other books too, as long as they sign a loyalty oath.
Nobody Read Anything, OK?
We'll just close with a free gift linky to this depressing Washington Post story about students' access to books being removed all over America because a small but politically empowered minority of panicky moralists are having a moral panic. The main targets so far have been books about race and LGBTQ matters, and the methods range from official removals of books to school administrators quietly pulling books off shelves without any formal process, and all sorts of wonderful crackdowns on reading, like requiring parental permission for each book a kid checks out, or automated email notices sent to parents when a kid checks something out, which couldn't possibly result in a gay kid getting beaten up and thrown out on the street for checking out a suspect book.
As of yet, groups like the Orwellian-monikered "Moms for Liberty" haven't yet figured out how to notify parents if a kid looks up "transgender" or "gay" in a reference book, or takes a potentially dangerous book off the library shelf to read during their free period, but clearly such disasters can be prevented by removing all such books from every school everywhere.
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