In an unbelievably predictable turn of events, Keith Flaugh with the Florida Citizens’ Alliance is causing problems for Collier County School Board by claiming approved science textbooks don’t meet the criteria HB 989, which states that all educational materials must be balanced and noninflammatory.
“I’m here to tell you that it’s not up to the school district to indoctrinate kids with one view as a proven fact rather than present both sides,” Flaugh said.
Last year, Florida signed into law HB 989, legislation that allows any county resident to lodge a challenge against textbooks or supplemental materials that they claim fail to present “a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues.”
According to ABC news in Florida, “[Flaugh] said evolution should be taught along with creationism, and that climate change should be taught with an alternative viewpoint too. He wants balance in education.”
One of the concerns when Florida passed the law, was the potential for an onslaught of challenges from parties that have little-vested interest in classroom curriculum. Such challenges would tie up school staff and resources in an endless series of review committees and meetings.
In the same ABC news item, Flaugh told the reporter, “with those formal objections, each school board has to hold a separate hearing and hire an independent hearing officer to hear the objections.” The Florida Citizen’s Alliance made formal complaints about 15 out of 23 of the science textbooks.
In each case, the independent hearing officer gives their recommendation as to whether or not the complaint has merit to the school board 30 days after the hearing. The school board then presumably makes the final decision taking the recommendation into account.
To help school districts with fight unnecessary challenges designed to waste their time and resources, CBLDF has organized with other likeminded freedom to read advocates and created the Florida Education Defenders. The organization works to limit the negative effects of HB 989 by:
- Tracking book challenges in the press and through confidential reports
- Sharing resources on book adoption and challenges, including guidance for defending science texts
- Providing guidance to teachers confronting challenges
- Supporting administrators with policy guidance and best practices for reviewing instructional materials
- Mobilizing the Florida education community to advocate for policy and legislative reforms
Anyone who learns of a challenge in Florida is encouraged to report book challenges online. The form can be found here.
Florida Education Defenders is a joint effort by CBLDF, National Coalition Against Censorship, Florida Citizens for Science, Florida Conference of Historians, Florida Education Association, American Library Association, Authors Guild, National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN America.