‘My heart is broken’: Florida teachers ordered to remove or block classroom libraries or face felony prosecution

Teachers in Manatee County, Florida, are being ordered to remove or make inaccessible libraries of books inside their classrooms or face possible felony prosecution, as the district responds to legislation Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law prohibiting any books that have not been thoroughly vetted by a credentialed librarian.

The law, which went into effect at the start of this year, "is based on the premise, promoted by right-wing advocacy groups, that teachers and librarians are using books to 'groom' students or indoctrinate them with leftist ideologies," according to Judd Legum at Popular Information.

He puts it simply: "classroom libraries that are curated by teachers, not librarians, are now illegal."

"My heart is broken for Florida students today as I am forced to pack up my classroom library," one teacher wrote on Facebook, Legum reports.

Calling it a "travesty to education, the future of our children and our nation," another teacher lamented they have spent 18 years "dedicated to providing students with quality literature," and helping them "connect with books and develop a love of lifelong learning," but now they will have to dismantle their classroom library.

Kevin Chapman, the Chief of Staff for the Manatee County School District, "says that school principals in Manatee County were told Wednesday that any staff member violating these rules by providing materials 'harmful to minors' could be prosecuted for 'a felony of the third degree.'"

Not only are teachers now packing up their classroom libraries, but children are being told they are not allowed to bring any books from home to school.

Books can be returned to the classroom only after vigorous review by certified librarians, whose official title is media specialist. They are also subject to felony prosecution if they make any errors.

"That review must also be consistent with a complex training," Legum reports, "which was heavily influenced by right-wing groups like Moms For Liberty and approved by the Florida Department of Education just last week. Any mistake by a librarian or others could result in criminal prosecution. This process must be repeated for any book brought into the school on an ongoing basis. But librarians and teachers are not being provided with any additional compensation for the extra work."

Earlier on Monday Gov. DeSantis defended the decision to ban advanced placement for African American history classes in Florida.

Standing in a school classroom at a podium with a sign that reads, “Florida, the education state,” DeSantis declared the “issue is we have guidelines and standards in Florida."

“We want education, not indoctrination. If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline. If it’s education, then we will do.”

“This course on Black history. What are one of, what’s one of the lessons about? Queer theory."