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Ron DeSantis signs bill restricting challenges to books in public schools

The new law backtracks from the state's 2022 law, which that led to an increase in objections to books in school libraries.
Ron DeSantis.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that aims to limit objections to books in public school libraries.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

Gov. Ron DeSantis pivoted in his yearslong campaign to take what he has called "woke indoctrination" out of Florida's schools, signing a bill Tuesday to restrict challenges to books in school libraries.

The new legislation will enforce a limit of one objection to a book per month for people who don't have children in a given school district; those who do have children in a district will continue to be allowed unlimited challenges to library books.

The bill "protects schools from activists trying to politicize and disrupt a district's book review process," the governor's office said in a release.

The new law dials back legislation DeSantis signed in 2022 that increased public participation in the review of materials being used in schools, opening the door for unlimited challenges to books in school libraries across the state. He signed additional legislation last year that further outlined restrictions on how information about sex and gender is taught in schools, including how parents may object to explicit or otherwise inappropriate materials.

DeSantis stood by the previous legislation at a news conference Tuesday, saying it was necessary for parents to be able to "raise the red flag" about books they felt were inappropriate for their children to read in schools. However, he added that those pushing political agendas had taken advantage of the previous legislation.

"I think what's happened, though, is you have some people who are taking the curriculum transparency, and they're trying to weaponize that for political purposes," DeSantis said.

"That involves objecting to normal books, like some of the books that I saw on the teacher's lounge, these classic books," he added. "There's people that will try to object to that because they want to create a narrative."

DeSantis said the new bill will counter the "passive-aggressive posture to try to create conflict, to try to generate a narrative and to advance a political agenda."

DeSantis has denied that Florida has sought to ban books, widely calling the issue the “book ban hoax” and releasing multiple statements through his office “debunking the myths” around challenges to books in Florida.

In February, he released another of those statements, which said he had “called on the legislature to enact policy that prioritizes parents’ voices by limiting bad-faith objections made by those who don’t have children learning in Florida.”

The Florida Freedom to Read Project, a group advocating against book bans, said Tuesday on X that the new legislation “is not ‘mission accomplished' on stopping the needless censorship happening in FL schools, but it might slow it down in certain areas."

“So for that, thanks for this small amendment,” the post continued. “Let’s tackle this again in 2025.”

The day DeSantis signed the new legislation, PEN America, a free speech organization that advocates against book bans, released a report that identifies Florida as the state with the most book bans.

According to the report, there were over 3,000 recorded bans of books in Florida from July to December. Wisconsin had the second-highest number during that period, clocking in at 481 bans.

PEN America found that from July 2021 to December 2023, over 5,000 books have been banned in Florida.