Florida Legislature Passes Classroom Censorship Bills

Florida flagThe Florida Senate today approved the House version of a bill that would facilitate challenges to classroom materials, sending the legislation on to Governor Rick Scott. The Senate also had its own version of the bill, but not enough time remains in the legislative session to reconcile the two so the final version remains unchanged from the one passed by the House last month. CBLDF recently joined the National Coalition Against Censorship in protesting the bills.

The two bills are slightly modified versions of others that failed during the 2016 session and purport to require “a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues” presented in textbooks and other instructional materials. But the two groups pushing the legislation, the Florida Citizens’ Alliance and Better Collier County Public Schools, have in the past raised objections to the teaching of climate change and evolution, as well as books with LGBTQ themes. Advocacy groups, including the National Center for Science Education and Florida Citizens for Science, warn that the true objective of the bills is “inserting creationism and climate change doubts into the classroom.”

Thankfully, the bills were amended to remove one of the most extreme provisions, which would have allowed anyone who has paid sales tax in Florida to challenge classroom materials anywhere in the state. Both bills were later modified such that challengers must be legal residents of Florida.

Governor Scott will have up to two weeks to decide whether to sign or veto the legislation, depending on when the session officially ends. Lawmakers were originally scheduled to adjourn today, but the session was extended this week as they failed to agree on a budget.

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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.