Living in a Censored World: How HB 1467 Has Affected Florida Students and Educators

A recent training put forth by the Florida Board of Education has caused stress among librarians and teachers in Florida. Read on to learn more!


Image shared on Twitter by @JagsFanBrian.

 Librarians in Florida have had to undergo new training in regard to the material they are allowed to display and promote. According to the new state law (HB 1467), they are prohibited from having any material that includes social justice, culturally responsive teaching, and critical race theory. However, it is not limited to just that, as it also limits “any other unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination.” The introduction of this new law has even caused some librarians and teachers to quit their jobs entirely, as opposed to risk facing federal felony charges or jail time.

What does this mean for students? Learning materials are disappearing and being restricted, causing thoughts and ideas to be limited and controlled by the far right. Reading is a privilege and always has been, yet how can it be anything but a privilege when we have barely made progress on book bans in 40 years?

The argument has never been about books. It’s solely about government control and going against those they do not agree with. Many parents believe that schools are becoming overrun with progressive ideologies pertaining to race, gender, and sexuality that are confusing children. Won’t children be confused about ideas they cannot learn about? It is important for children to be independent and form their own thoughts and opinions; conservative parents and government officials want the opposite. According to a PEN America study, in the 2021-2022 school year, 1,648 titles were banned in schools, 41% of those which dealt with LGBTQ themes and characters, so the frustration created by the passage of the bill is nothing new. Supposedly, gender identity and sexuality are “adult concepts,” that are too much for children to carry and should not be dissecting at their young age. Conservative group Moms for Liberty are claiming that terms such as diversity, equality, and social justice are a disguise for a biased political agenda.

As these battles of censorship and book bans affect students, it has greatly impacted the jobs of educators. In January of 2023, teachers in Florida were asked to cover up their bookshelves or completely rid their classrooms of their materials, disguising titles that the state deemed inappropriate.

Included in HB 1467 are the consequences for teachers and librarians that continue to teach this banned material, which include the possibility of a third-degree felony charge for even displaying books whose contents have arguably pornographic and “harmful material.” This bill was originally introduced and enforced in July of 2022, yet the training for educators did not come in place until January of 2023, meaning teachers and librarians could not buy new books for their classrooms for the 2022 school year, as now books must be approved by a “certified media specialist.”

PEN America shares an article on Twitter displaying an teacher’s empty bookshelves.

The point of libraries within schools is for kids to have access to books that they may not have access to outside of the classroom, if librarians are not allowed to buy new books, they are unable to achieve their job of providing for students. The process for the approval of books, old and new, is quite extensive. After being reviewed by a certified media specialist, they must be approved to be presented in a school meeting before finally being signed off by a principal.

Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida, published a Youtube video titled “Classroom Libraries,” in which they explicitly state what is to come with HB1467 and how they will move forward to accommodate the bill. Chief Academic Officer Paula Renfro stated that “classroom libraries will be temporarily reduced to those books that have been approved by a certified media specialist and books on the state-approved best list.” This list includes a little over 350 books, which seems like enough, however there is no guarantee that every student will find a few books amidst the 350 that they will enjoy. What surprised me most about this list was the titles included, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, and Of Mice and Men, all of which have frequently appeared on banned book lists throughout the country since the 1980s.

What I think that Florida government officials have failed to realize is that banning these books does nothing but encourage kids to read them even more. In fact, I have even taken the time to read previously banned books to further understand the motives for speaking against them. What I have found with this is that, in some cases, what is causing such an uproar is sometimes limited to a few pages of “explicit material,” or simply internal dialogue within the characters. Overall, why do politicians get to decide what educators teach? Educating children and young adults to be inclusive and accepting is the most important thing we can do, facing hard-hitting topics helps students to frame their own opinions and decisions.

Removing books from libraries will not stop students from forming their own opinions. You can’t erase history or fully censor students from learning. What they are restricted from inside the classroom does not limit their curiosity outside of the classroom.