New Florida Law Allows Anyone to Challenge What’s Taught in Schools

A new Florida law would let anyone in the state challenge, and possibly change, what kids are learning in school.

Tallahassee, FL — A new Florida law would let anyone in the state challenge, and possibly change, what kids are learning in school.

Any Florida resident can raise concerns about teaching material they find unfit for public school classrooms, according to legislation that went into effect Saturday. The bill was introduced in February by Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, and was signed into law last week after passing with bipartisan support.

An “unbiased hearing officer,” not employed by the school district, would determine if a complaint has merit, requiring schools to take any controversial books or material out of the classroom.

Previously, only parents could file complaints, which were then heard by a school board.

Supporters of the law have disputed material presenting global warming and evolution as “reality.” Others found certain reading material to be “pornographic.” And for some, US and world history textbooks seem biased and anti-American.

The Florida Citizens’ Alliance, a conservative group that supports individual rights and limited government, advocated for the bill and gathered testimony from at least 25 people in favor of the legislation.

One woman took issue with evolution being taught as a “fact,” arguing that the “vast majority of Americans believe that the world and the beings living on it were created by God as revealed in the Bible.” Another person complained that history classes were making students “subservient” by teaching them about the president’s ability to issue executive orders.

Of the bill’s supporters who testified, many felt their concerns had not been recognized by local school boards. Getting their complaints before a hearing officer could alleviate those frustrations.

But critics are worried that anyone who disagrees with the ideas taught in Florida classrooms can file a complaint.

Florida Citizens for Science, a group of parents and teachers promoting science education, has been a vocal opponent of the legislation. The organization has complained on its website that anyone with “an ideological agenda,” not just parents, will be able to challenge material.

“People who crusade against basic, established science concepts such as evolution and climate change will have the green light to bog down the textbook selection process on the local level and bully school boards into compromises that will negatively impact science education,” the group wrote in a blog post.

The debate over what topics are too controversial to teach in school is an ongoing issue, both in the US and around the world. The head of Turkey’s national board of education announced last month that evolution was too controversial for high school students to comprehend and removed it from the curriculum. Stateside, several bills focusing on changing how climate change and other scientific theories are taught have popped up in other legislative bodies, including Texas and Idaho.

9 comments

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    This is actually a GREAT thing. Unfortunately, it will be screwed up.

    We need more business, personal finance, basic life skills and checkbook balancing taught in school. You know, the stuff we need as adults that we’re NEVER taught in school.

    Except the liberals will probably use this law to tear down statues and rewrite history.

    • E

      So much irony. The things you listed and many more real-world skills have been pushed out of public schools by republican-backed initiatives designed to “prove” that public education is failing. There’s no time for those things when standardized test determine a school’s fate.
      Typical uninformed republican fighting against his own better judgement because the party tells him he should.

      • Silverfish Imperetrix

        Please list a few of those “Republican-backed initiatives” by name. Thanks.

      • E

        No Child Left Behind, Student Success Act, Every Student Succeeds Act,… Silverfish, the priority of the right in education is to discredit public education to garner support for vouchers. Current republicans don’t value anything unless it generates a profit. It’s the only reason they support vouchers that can be applied to for-profit ‘schools’. It’s the only reason they oppose single-payer health care. It’s the only reason they want to privatize anything they can. You should do a little research to see what it is you’re supporting.

      • Silverfish Imperetrix

        Whoa, Nellie! From the audacity of Republicans actually wanting to hold schools accountable via testing the students (what a concept, eh?) and giving their parents the option of using vouchers to put them in a school that actually gives their children an education to single payer health insurance. Yep. You’re a brainwashed commie through and through. You’re living in the wrong country.

      • J (@ds18301)

        Well said “E”. The GOP has long recognized how it is essential to 1) have an ignorant, uneducated electorate who is easily swayed by outlets like Fox. 2) The gerrymandering of voting districts and 3) the suppression of minority voters. Finally they throw their uninformed electorate a bone like abortion, religion guns, etc (of which they care absolutely nothing about) and Bingo!, the uninformed voters wag their tails and vote against their own interests.

    • DaDuke

      Only old people use checks, really old people. That’s why the lines at the grocery store take sooooooo long.

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