Duval Schools pushes back against DeSantis on schoolbooks

WJCT News | By Claire Heddles | March 14, 2023

Duval County Public Schools is pushing back against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ allegations that the district extended its book review process for political reasons.

DeSantis said: “In Duval, what they were doing was intentionally trying to create friction and trying to create issues to act like something was wrong in the state of Florida. 

Duval School leaders say that’s not accurate. In an emailed statement, the district said it has been reviewing books in school library media centers since last summer and only directed teachers to cover unapproved books because new guidance came down from the state Board of Education in January. 

Every title in the school district is being reviewed for compliance with new Florida laws — admittedly a more extreme response than surrounding districts. But Duval officials say it’s necessary to protect district educators from unintentionally violating state law. 

“The contention that we have done this to cause some kind of political issue isn’t supported by the actual facts. Duval County Public Schools has taken the steps required at the time the Department of Education has provided the guidance needed to implement this process,” wrote Tracy Pierce, the district’s chief of marketing and public relations.

“Our actions are designed to ensure compliance with Florida law and to protect the interests of our students, teachers, and school leaders. We are well aware of the risk of personal sanctions against an educator’s professional certificate — or even possible criminal prosecution — if a resource is found to be in violation of Florida statute.”

The district has approved about 10,000 of its 1.5 million titles so far. None of the four books DeSantis pointed to last week as having explicit, sexual material have been found in Duval Schools.

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