In an effort to implement Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) so-called “curriculum transparency” agenda, the Florida State Board of Education has hastily assembled a council tasked with creating new restrictions for public school libraries and retraining its librarians, according to the Daily Beast. But how the group came to be is, ironically, a lot murkier than it has let on: Government emails obtained by the organization Democracy Forward reveal that a handful of parents appointed to the group are MAGA moms who were handpicked by right-wing activists hellbent on banning books.
The Board of Education had originally put out a call in August for local school districts to nominate its own candidates for the council, but the actual outcome of the recruiting process suggests a more insidious agenda at play. Nominees with years of teaching and administrative experience were snubbed for self-nominated candidates, like Brevard County’s Michelle Beavers, who leads a local chapter of the MAGA group Moms for Liberty. She’s also been steadily compiling a growing list of targeted titles that feature topics like homosexuality and so-called “crude behavior.”
The emails reveal that another seat holder, Jennifer Pippin, was unofficially nominated by a member of the group “Florida Citizens Alliance,” which has fought against public schools’ “cultural Marxism” and “LGBTQ values.”
“Mamas for DeSantis” member Jamie Merchant also nabbed a spot on the council. The fan club read Crimes of the Educators togther for their book club this past summer—a manifesto written by two conspiracy conspiracy theorists calling for the downfall of American public schools. Some non-MAGA parents who’d applied to be part of the working group were never interviewed, while others simply never heard back.
At a Board of Education meeting held in Orlando last Wednesday, October 19, officials voted to extend public school library censorship measures to teachers’ individual classroom libraries in an effort to hold some “bad apples” accountable, according to board member Grazie Pozo Christie. Now, all items in classroom collections must be cataloged, a time consuming process for already underpaid teachers that leaves students with no alternative reading materials in the meantime. “[Students will] have less access to important material that would inspire them to read and to learn. The state has created a situation that is harming students,” Clinton McCracken, the head of the Orange County teacher’s union, told the Daily Beast. “Laws like this are created to demonize public education,” he added.
The Board of Education is clearly forging ahead with its increasing violations against student privacy in favor of the so-called “parental rights” that DeSantis signed into law this past March. In addition to these new book bans, officials decided at the meeting that parents must be notified about their children’s locker room and bathroom usage, should they stray from the spaces that align with the sex they were assigned at birth.
The zealous workgroup, however, can’t seem to settle on a presentation regarding mandatory librarian training, because of disagreements on how to go about it. Director of instructional materials Amber Baumbach said that they might just present two different versions—”a sane version and one that caters to the crazies,” per the Beast—and let the DeSantis administration decide which to pursue. I have a few guesses as to how that’s going to go.