Tighter restrictions on book challenge but likely to do little to help one local community – 104.5 WOKV

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Florida lawmakers have a new plan to address frivolous book challenges that led to the removal of more than a thousand books from school library shelves last year alone, but the new language may not do much to stop a local county that has become a hotspot for book challenges submitted by one man.

State lawmakers have abandoned an initial proposal that would have given residents of a district with no students in the school system the ability to submit unlimited book challenges.

That plan would have limited non-parents from filing appeals only after five appeals were rejected in one calendar year.

[DOWNLOAD: Free Action News Jax app for alerts as news breaks]

Districts could then have charged them $100 for each subsequent challenge, but that fee would have to be refunded if the challenger prevailed.

Now, an amendment passed in the Florida Senate would limit non-parents to one book challenge per month, no questions asked.

RELATED: The new Florida bill would charge people who dispute library books or educational materials

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) explained that she hopes the restriction will reduce frivolous challenges that have earned Florida the unwanted distinction of being the nation’s book ban capital.

“People went overboard and started objecting to the classics, you know, like Shakespeare and whatever, which I think is ridiculous. So you know, like anything, we had to keep that in check and it’s just in the details and the language and how to do that,” Passidomo said.

But for Clay County, which has borne the brunt of the book challenge craze, the proposal likely won’t have an impact… At least not for a year or two.

Bruce Friedman of No Left Turn in Education has submitted hundreds of book challenges over the past two years, about half of which have been successful.

RELATED: DeSantis approves the bill that would allow districts to charge a fee for some book challenges

Although Friedman was not available for an interview Wednesday, he told Action News Jax that he has a son enrolled in a high school in Clay County.

That means he still has the freedom to continue challenging books as he sees fit under the Senate language.

When we spoke with him last August, he argued that he was merely exercising his right under state law.

‘I only won, if you want to call it that, when I could prove that the book is against the law. So if you don’t like that, discuss it with your legislature. I’m just the guy who shines the light on it,” Friedman said in the August interview.

Stephana Ferrell of the Florida Freedom to Read Project points out that there is currently nothing on the table this year that would further specify what is and is not allowed content.

RELATED: New report identifies Duval County as hotspot for textbook challenges, district pushes back

She argues that until that happens, districts like Clay can continue to take on hundreds of book challenges each year.

“We will continue to express their views and say that their views should limit everything and that is not freedom, that is not freedom, and unfortunately the law allows all of this,” Ferrell said.

Clay County Public Schools says it is monitoring the legislation and will adjust its practices and protocols to ensure compliance with the law if it is ultimately passed.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

“Our mission is to continue working with all stakeholders to provide a public education experience that is motivating, challenging and rewarding for all children in Clay County,” said a district spokesperson.

click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to live stream Action News Jax.

Leave a Comment