Manatee County teachers close classroom libraries, fearing new law
MANATEE COUNTY - Teachers in Manatee County are closing their classroom libraries, fearing prosecution under a new Florida law.
The Manatee County School District is directing teachers to remove all books that have not yet been approved by a certified specialist from their classroom libraries.
The policy comes in response to House Bill 1467, which requires all reading material in schools to be selected by an employee with a valid education media specialist certificate.
The Manatee districts chief of staff, Kevin Chapman told the Herald Tribune, many of the books teachers make available to students in their classrooms are likely already approved through the district's library system, but many teachers have chosen to close access altogether, since making unvetted books available could lead to felony prosecution.
The district did not, however, directly advise teachers to shut down classroom libraries and cover them up.
In a message sent from the Manatee district to principals, the material must be “free of pornography” and “appropriate for the age level and group.” New training approved by the State Board of Education also asks media specialists to avoid materials with “unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination.”
According to Chapman, each of Manatee County's more than 60 schools has at least one certified media center specialist to vet books.
The district and schools have begun making calls for volunteers to help teachers go through their classroom libraries and inventory what was already approved and what needs to be approved.