The terrible slew of anti-education legislation that battered the Florida legislature in early 2019 is, by and large, dead in the water. The legislation was written by special interest group Florida Citizens Alliance, the group behind the successful law in 2017 that allowed any Florida resident to contest instructional materials, even if they have no ties to the school. That law was designed to bolster their supporters to create a multitude of challenges and get texts that didn’t match their mission removed, or at least mire the districts in long, drawn-out battles. When no books were successfully removed after that law passed, Florida Citizens Alliance wrote more legislation to fix their previous failure.
The 2019 Florida Bills
- HB 855 & SB 1454 Were House and Senate Bills aimed that would have altered the definition of “harmful to minors” to include anything with sexual content regardless of academic or artistic merit. It would have criminalized the teaching of Romeo and Juliet, 1984, and countless other works of literary genius.
- Would have allowed any citizen of Florida to sue for an injunction to prohibit works from being taught until a the court decided whether or not they were appropriate for education. It would have taken agency from educators and mired already struggling school districts in vast financial and time consuming wars, thereby chilling book selection to only those certain to raise no passion and cause no trouble with special interests groups.
- SB 330 Would have watered down science education throughout the state in the guise of offering “balanced” opinions, instead of proven scientific theory.
- HB 195 would have required schools to offer Bible study classes.
Only The Beginning
However, this probably will not be the last time we hear about these Bills or nearly identical ones in the near future. If you look at the timeline of censorship below since Florida Citizens Alliance emerged onto the political scene, one loss will do nothing except to spurn them to craft more legislation that meets their goals. It’s critical to stay vigilant, and be aware of what is going on on the local level. Stay involved in your community, and continue to speak up when censorship is offered as a solution. The answer is always more speech, never less. Use yours valiantly.
Timeline of Florida Citizens Alliance (FLCA) Censorship Activity
The FLCA has been training its members for years to bring frivolous challenges against textbooks in all 66 Florida counties.
- 2016: FLCA publishes an “assessment” of curricular materials, calling for the removal of hundreds of classic literary works, history and science texts from Collier, Martin, Clay and
Nassau Counties. They challenged 220 science texts in Collier County alone.
- 2017: FLCA authors unprecedented legislation allowing any Florida resident to challenge textbooks, regardless of whether their children attended school. (Learn more about HB 989)
- 2018: FLCA teams up with Truth in Textbooks, a Texas group that claims to have trained estimated 20,000 volunteer challengers.
- 2019: FLCA teams up with It’s Your Tea Party FL to challenge dozens of texts in Marion County.
- NOW: FLCA introduces new bills to require bible study, remove materials that do not conform
with conservative values, and authorize challengers the right to sue.
Back in February, the managing director of FLCA, Keith Flaugh, told The Miami Herald , “I’ve been doing this for six years. And I’m more optimistic now than I’ve ever been.”