Central Florida school librarians say new mandated training needs to be redone
School librarians and media specialists across Central Florida have to undergo an hour-long training session to help them understand new rules on what can and can’t be in school libraries.
Those rules came about as part of a wave of legislation that Gov. Ron Desantis said are about more transparency in education. That includes the Parental Rights In Education Act and the governor’s so-called “Stop WOKE” Act.
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But some Central Florida media specialists think the training, which has to be completed by July, needs to be redone.
Osceola County Media Specialist Tania Rodriguez said she’s already watched the new training video twice. She said she’s most concerned about broad language in the videos, things like telling her to err on the side of caution. She said its made more unclear by the narration.
Read: ‘Stop WOKE Act’ puts pressure on Florida universities to cut critical race theory from curriculum
“If you would not be comfortable reading the material in a public setting, you should not make the material available in a public school,” the narrator says.
“Quite honestly I am concerned for the state of our libraries,” she said.
State Rep. Sam Garrison sponsored the bill that mandates this training. He said he put the onus on the Department of Education to develop the specifics.
Read: Policy changes put Florida schools in compliance with Parental Rights in Education law
“The standards set forth in the law are very clear,” Garrison said. “We want to be focused on education.”
But several professional librarian associations say the training goes against the best selection standards. One slide tells librarians they can consider crowd-sourced reviews when they choose their books.
“It’s subjective and it’s not best practice,” Rodriguez said.
Read: Florida board approves rule changes for Parental Rights in Education law
Local librarians say that instead of clarifying new laws as intended, the training creates a climate of fear. Some slides tell school librarians that pornography found in their collections could lead to a third-degree felony.
“I see that some librarians self-censor because they’re afraid of getting in trouble, and that should not be a consideration as far as choosing books for our students,” Rodriguez said.
Right now the contents of the training are still technically being reviewed and changes can still be proposed. A workshop is scheduled to make final changes on Jan. 18.
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