Saturday, June 23, 2018
Politics

'I don't like that school book.' Bill gives Florida parents more power to object.

TALLAHASSEE — Moms and dads would have more power to challenge their child's classroom books or other lesson materials that parents deem distasteful, offensive or inappropriate for public schools, under a bill the Florida Legislature passed Friday.

Lawmakers argue county school boards aren't giving parents a fair say to contest instructional materials, and that HB 989 only "tightens up that process." But opponents fear it makes it easier for parents to object on philosophical grounds to some core topics their children are taught — such as evolution or sex education, or historical events, like slavery or the Holocaust.

Senators approved the bill, 19-17, after about 40 minutes of debate Friday. Miami-Dade Republican Sens. Anitere Flores and René García opposed it with the chamber's 15 Democrats.

The House previously approved the bill by a 94-25 vote, so the legislation now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

Senate sponsor Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, said critics' concerns about extreme complaints were unwarranted because he said the legislation limits what kind of objections parents could make.

The bill states parents and residents of a school district can challenge any classroom materials, library books or reading lists that contain "pornographic" content or "is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group."

It's that vague language — as well as how the bill defines the "resident" who can make the challenge — that has Democrats most concerned. They also worry it overrides the authority of elected school board members.

"This seems to go a lot farther than a lot of us think makes sense," Miami Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez said.

Supporters, including Republican senators, said parents are encouraged to be involved in their child's school, and this works toward making that easier.

Vero Beach Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield said some parents in her Treasure Coast district were particularly upset about some of the materials their children receive — such as summer reading lists that include "books that our children are being given that are very offensive." (She didn't elaborate as to what books those were.)

"Parents need to be engaged, and parents need to have a say in what their children are receiving and being required to read," she said.

The ACLU of Florida warned the legislation "makes it easier to censor and ban books."

"Florida's educational resources are stretched thin enough," said Kara Gross, the group's legislative counsel. "Taxpayer dollars should be spent teaching students with instructional materials that meet state standards, not wasted on countless public reviews and hearings on textbooks and lessons that one person doesn't like or agree with."

During a Wednesday morning caucus breakfast, Democratic senators had a lengthy discussion about the proposal, noting various challenges parents might make. For instance, Broward County Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, mentioned health education materials and "things that keep kids safe."

"We're opening a real Pandora's box here that could be really, really dangerous to students," she said.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said it could "let anybody come in and complain about, you know, the history of slavery, or the fact that maybe we shouldn't have evolution in our textbooks."

He added dryly: "Have they talked about what they're going to do with the books after they remove them from the library? Are we going to have a burning in the courtyard, or … ?"

Republican Sens. Dana Young, of Tampa, and Jack Latvala, of Clearwater, were out of the Senate chamber during the vote, but their absence wouldn't have changed the outcome. Young told the Times/Herald she would have voted yes; Latvala wouldn't say how he would have voted.

Contact Kristen M. Clark at [email protected] Follow @ByKristenMClark

Comments
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18