A Florida school district has implemented a book freeze, in which they won't allow any new titles into schools amid new laws.
Educators and officials in Florida have started a new school year scrambling to decode sweeping new education laws in order to make sure they comply with rules and regulations. This new legislation has placed extensive barriers on what teachers can discuss, and what materials can be used. As for books, newly passed bills mean schools are now double-checking library shelves, and reviewing titles for material that the state may now deem inappropriate. Because of this, districts are implementing book freezes, in which they are refusing to take in any new reading material as they navigate reform.
According to a report from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, schools in the Sarasota district are turning away book donations. Schools all across the nation struggle with keeping classrooms and libraries well-stocked with books for students to read. But despite that, the Florida district chose to implement a book freeze until this coming January, as they attempt to decode new state laws which require them to review all reading material.
Making national headlines, the book freeze went viral after a local rotary club attempted to gift the district with dictionaries. One of the most important tools to equip young learners with, dictionaries aid students in comprehension and communication, and builds vocabulary. The local organization has donated new dictionaries to the district for years, but this year, their generous offering was rejected, as the district cited the temporary halt on placing new material in schools.
School officials made the book freeze decision in direct response to HB 1467. Taking effect in July, the law was heralded by the DeSantis admission to offer extensive curriculum transparency, and give parents more control over what reading materials are inside of schools. Under this new ruling, schools are required to be vetted by a certified education media specialist. The Sarasota school district has never had a staffer in this position.
The school is now seeking an individual to fill this position. In recruiting and onboarding whoever will fill the media specialist position, they are allotting themselves additional months to review materials within the book freeze. Media relations specialist with the district, Kelsey Whealy told NPR that on top of this process, the district is awaiting extra guidance from the state Department of Education on how exactly to navigate the new law.
Other than the book freeze, the district now requires teachers to convey to school administrators and parents all reading material they will utilize before it is used in the classroom. Likewise, book fairs, Scholastic Book Orders, and read-alouds must be reviewed and approved by parents in advance. But for now, unfortunately, a spokesperson for the rotary club said that the organization is not likely to sit on the dictionaries, and will seek a private school to donate them to instead.
Florida is just one of many conservative states pushing for more parental control and curriculum transparency in public schools. It is part of a political movement propelling education reform into the forefront of topics, with politicians vowing to rid schools of indoctrination. On the other hand, critics of these movements say these laws are unconstitutional and promote censorship. Despite opposing sides, schools in these states must comply with laws, which means that areas like Sarasota see no other choice than to place book freezes on schools district-wide.