TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — An administrative law judge dismissed a Florida teachers’ union lawsuit that sought to exclude classroom libraries from the state’s curriculum transparency law.
In March, the Florida Education Association (FEA) spearheaded an administrative challenge to a Florida Department of Education (FDOE) rule requiring classroom libraries be included in HB 1467, passed in 2022.
The law requires schools to provide a public, online catalog of library materials that parents can easily access from the school’s website. It also mandates that a certified media specialist at each school undergo state-issued training and review all school library books to ensure compliance with existing laws.
The FDOE’s rule clarified that classroom libraries fall under the scope of the law, not just school libraries.
“UNREASONABLE AND CONTRARY TO FLORIDA LAW”
In his ruling issued on Thursday, Judge Darren Schwartz rejected the FEA’s assertion that FDOE had exceeded its authority by making the rule.
“It is unreasonable and contrary to Florida law for FEA to assert that the Department lacks authority to define a ‘library media center,’ when the Department’s statutory directives cannot be accomplished without use of the phrase,” Schwartz wrote.
The idea that the classroom library should not be included in the law seemed to puzzle Schwartz.
“The Department’s definition is also consistent with the plain and ordinary meaning of the phrase ‘library media center,’” he added. “In the absence of a statutory definition, a court should assume that the Legislature used words according to their ordinary dictionary definition as understood at the time of enactment.
“Any collection of books or media – whether located in a building labeled ‘library’ or on a classroom bookshelf – can constitute a “library media center,” according to the plain and common meaning of the phrase.”
THE NEED FOR TRANSPARENCY
FEA President Andrew Spar called the rule a “burden” for teachers and suggested their motives and discretion should not be doubted.
Spar told New4Jax in March: “As I talk to teachers all over the state, what they tell me is that they have never had parents question books in their classroom, libraries, teachers are professionals, they buy books that are academically appropriate, that are age-appropriate, and that are content appropriate with their kids in mind.”
Unfortunately, sexually explicit books have become commonplace in K-12 schools across America. Some teachers have publicly admitted they may disregard the law in order to teach their students the way they think is best.
HB 1467 makes it easier to find out what materials their children have access to at school. It also ensures books are chosen by media specialists who are formally trained on what should be considered inappropriate – a needed measure given the fact that some parents believe pornographic books should be made available to kids.
“READ IT AND WEEP!”
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. called the ruling a “major win for Florida parents and classroom transparency.”
“It’s sad to see the Florida teachers' union waste their members’ hard-earned money on a frivolous lawsuit to block parents from knowing what their children are reading in classrooms,” Diaz wrote on Twitter. “Read it and weep!”