The DeSantis administration’s board of education is attempting to steal important decisions away from parents and allow those with the most extreme positions to decide what information your kids have access to. 

In 2022, the Florida Legislature rushed to pass a series of discriminatory bills including the measures notoriously known as the “Don’t Say Gay Act,” the “Stop Woke Act,” and the “Parental Rights in Education” law. This series of legislation and the regulations that sought to implement the bills faced immediate and widespread legal challenges and in 2023, the Florida legislature approved HB 1069, a bill that sought to expand and concretize the legally problematic language of the previous legislation. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill in May and it took effect on July 1, 2023. 

This bill, HB 1069, is far from legally defensible. Among other problematic provisions, the bill creates a system that discriminates against parents who oppose book bans and censorship. Specifically, if a book is challenged but the local school board decides to keep it on shelves, H.B. 1069 provides parents with a formal process to seek State review of that decision. However, if a book is challenged and then removed, parents who want to keep the book on shelves cannot seek State review of that removal. Parents who want to keep books on shelves, a viewpoint disfavored by the State, are excluded from the process altogether.

If a parent objects to a book that is used in their child’s school and the district school board retains it anyway, the law allows that parent to request the Commissioner of Education to appoint a special magistrate to review the local school district’s actions and make a recommendation to the State Board of Education about the dispute. The state review process, which must be paid for by the local school district, financially penalizes school districts for rejecting censorship – as a result, it incentivizes book removals. This review process is only available to parents who want to see materials removed, not to parents who want to push back in an effort to keep materials available to their children.

This discrimination against parents who oppose book removals isn’t hypothetical – one of the plaintiffs in this case is the parent of students in Florida public schools who have asked for a review of their school board’s decisions to remove materials from local schools and who have been denied. One of the plaintiffs learned that another parent had requested that her children’s school district remove the book Shut Up! by Marilyn Reynolds, leading the district to remove it. The plaintiff requested a review of the decision and was denied because she held the state’s disfavored view. 

This is a violation of the First Amendment, and on June 6, 2024 a parent who was prevented from accessing the process, along with other affected parents, filed a challenge to the law, seeking to stop the unfair and unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.