District taking further steps to comply with Florida laws on library books

Jan. 23, 2023 – Duval County Public Schools continues to take steps to ensure compliance with all recent legislation regarding books and materials available to children through school media centers and classroom libraries.

The Florida Department of Education has trained all Florida schools districts to “err on the side of caution” in determining if a book is developmentally appropriate for student use.

Under new Florida law, all books in elementary school libraries (including classroom collections for independent reading) must be reviewed by a certified media specialist. State training on these new laws requires that books be free from:

  • Pornography – defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.”
  • Instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in grades kindergarten through three.
  • Discrimination in such a way that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin is inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

The Florida Department of Education training also covers existing law regarding the distribution of harmful material to minors (FL Statute 847.012). Under that law, harmful material includes:

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) Any book, pamphlet, magazine, printed matter however reproduced, or sound recording that contains any matter defined in s. 847.001, explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, or sexual conduct and that is harmful to minors.

In the training, Florida educators are reminded that violation of this provision (FL Statute 847.012) is a third-degree felony.

The legislative action requiring all school library books (including classroom libraries and book donations) to be reviewed by a certified media specialist went into effect July 1, 2022.  Duval County Public Schools took immediate action while awaiting the training and guidance recently received from the FLDOE.  The district’s actions have included:

  • Implementing a process to have all new books and new book donations reviewed by a certified media specialist prior to making the books available to students.
  • Initiating a review of all books held in school libraries or media centers.
  • Completing a school-level, preliminary review of classroom libraries.

Having received this recent training and direction from the state, Duval County Public Schools will now conduct a formal review of classroom libraries. 

Teachers will receive a list of already approved books for continued use for classroom reading while the remaining books are under review. District staff members are working with teachers and certified media specialists to efficiently review books and to update the list as books are reviewed and approved.  The district will soon provide school staff with more specific guidance on the review process.

Additionally, once a book is deemed appropriate, it will be included in a public, online database, so that parents and other community members can see each book available to students.  

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