Florida Senate Approves Limiting Book Challenges to One Per Month

The Florida Senate passed a measure Tuesday that includes a provision limiting book challenges to one per month for individuals without children enrolled in the objecting school district.

The decision was made following concerns from top legislative leaders about frivolous objections to educational materials accessible in classrooms and libraries.

Lawmakers have been exploring various strategies to address objections stemming from widespread book challenges disrupting Florida school districts. Many of the proposed strategies focus on individuals who are not parents within the districts where they raise objections.

The vote divided along party lines, with Democrats opposing the legislation (HB 1285).

The House had previously endorsed a $100 “processing fee” for subsequent challenges lodged by individuals who have unsuccessfully challenged five materials in districts where their children are not enrolled. Hence, the House needs to reapprove HB 1285 before the end of the session.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo expressed hope that the provision approved by senators would represent the final version.

Democratic Sen. Lori Berman from Palm Beach County raised concerns about the potential impact of the change if it doesn’t specifically limit challenges to parents or guardians.

The issue of book challenges in Florida has attracted national attention. In the recent 2022-2023 academic year, PEN America documented 1,406 instances of book bans in Florida, making up 40% of all reported cases nationally.

One notable provision in the bill requires the State Board of Education to establish specialized teaching certificates for educators in classical education models.

Individuals holding the classical education teaching certificate would be exempt from certain requirements such as demonstrating general knowledge, subject area knowledge, and professional preparation.

The curriculum in existing classical charter schools emphasizes grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

Republican Sen. Danny Burgess voiced support for the bill, emphasizing the need for improvements based on observed issues and the desire to prevent potential abuses.

Under the legislation, teachers with the classical education certificate would still need a bachelor’s degree, be 18 years old, and pass a background check.

Democrats opposed the bill due to concerns surrounding the issuance of classical education teaching certificates, arguing that such specialized certifications are unnecessary.