On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration has quietly set up a council, known as a "parent workgroup," that will ban or censor books and "train" teachers and librarians in the rules about what content is and isn't allowed — and that DeSantis' education officials have staffed this group with far-right, anti-gay and anti-mask activists.
"The council was ... staffed under suspicious circumstances, with the state Education Department ignoring its own call for official candidates from local school districts and instead filling most of the slots with right-wing activists who have a history of proposing book bans," reported Brooke Leigh Howard and Jose Pagliery. "One was even nominated by a religious activist with close ties to the DeSantis administration a week before the department publicly called for candidates, according to government emails, hinting at secret coordination between them."
"The Education Department passed on nearly 100 potentially qualified applicants with relevant experience, records show," the report continued. "Instead, the department went with a woman who nominated herself: Michelle Beavers. While other candidates have teaching experience, Beavers’ bona fides consist of right-wing activism. She leads the local chapter of Moms for Liberty, a MAGA contingent that has antagonized her school board for years over mask mandates — and allied with DeSantis for his recent attempt to outlaw critical race theory in schools."
Moms for Liberty has been attacking public schools up and down the country, disrupting school board meetings with shouting matches and even paying bounties to find teachers whose classes mention race or LGBTQ issues in any capacity.
One chapter in Tennessee demanded the removal of books on MLK for being too divisive, books on civil rights protests for being anti-police, and even a picture book on seahorses they claimed was too sexy for children.
According to The Daily Beast, the DeSantis-backed book censorship panel is quickly becoming dysfunctional.
"By all accounts, the panel tasked with developing the oncoming mandatory librarian training for the Education Board is a slow-moving train wreck," the publication writes. "When the group reviewed the PowerPoint slides at their recent meeting last week, the department’s director of instructional materials, Amber Baumbach, punted on presenting what would obviously be the most controversial and contentious material. Faced with questions about disagreements, the group director revealed that the Education Department might soon get two versions of the presentation — in what critics like Stephana Ferrell with Florida Freedom to Read Project expect to be a sane version and one that caters to the crazies. The DeSantis administration — which has already spent considerable energy attacking 'woke' culture — would decide which option to take."
All of this comes as libraries around the country — not only those in grade schools but independent public libraries, and even private bookstores like Barnes & Noble — report an explosion of legal threats designed to force them to remove content right-wing groups disapprove of.