MANATEE COUNTY, FL — The Manatee County School Board will discuss the compliance of classroom libraries in the district with a new Florida education law at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Under the new state law — HB 1467 — all new reading materials used in school libraries and classrooms must be approved by certified education media specialists.
Manatee County teachers were recently advised that breaking this law could lead to felony charges against them, Kevin Chapman, the district’s chief of staff, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Teachers were told to “err on the side of caution” when making books available to students, Pat Barber, head of the Manatee Education Association, told Fox 13.
Classroom books should be kept away from students until they’ve been vetted by media specialists and volunteers, she added.
Patch asked the district for comment on the issue, but Michael Barber, director of communications, family and community engagement, wouldn’t answer questions on the topic.
“Because this issue will be addressed publicly by the School Board this evening, we are not providing any additional comments prior to the meeting,” he told Patch.
The meeting can be watched live on Manatee Schools Television (MSTV) at www.manateeschools.net/Page/3700.
According to documents shared by the district with Judd Legum from Popular Information, Manatee County Schools is seeking volunteers to help with vetting all classroom books that might be used by students.
The new law went into effect in November and training for it started Jan. 1, Chapman told the Bradenton Herald.
“A parent has a right to search and know what books are in their child’s classroom,” he said. “So, in order to do that, you’ve got to post on that school’s website a list of the books that are available in their student’s classroom. And that’s a process we are starting.”
Teachers throughout the district have packed or covered up their classroom libraries, according to reports. Many have lamented the new state law on social media.
“My heart is broken for Florida students today as I am forced to pack up my classroom library,” one teacher shared in a Facebook post, according to Popular Information.
They added, “The vetting process for new books is cumbersome, so even accepting donated books from parents and community members will not be allowed. The process of finding the list of approved books is also incredibly difficult.”
Another teacher posted, “Farewell, classroom library. We’ll see you soon, I promise … As an educator, I have spent the past 18 years of my life dedicated to providing students with quality literature. Helping them connect with books and develop (a) love of lifelong learning. Receiving notice today that classroom libraries are to be dismantled is a travesty to education, the future of our children and our nation.”