Officials in the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) have rejected dozens of social studies and history textbooks that were submitted for consideration for use by school districts, claiming that the books violate recently-implemented state standards.
Sixty-six of the 101 textbooks that were submitted to the department were approved, while 35 titles were rejected outright. Of the 66 titles that were given the green light, only 19 were given approval on their first go-around, while the remaining submissions had to undergo edits in order to be allowed.
Many of the rejections, which were announced on Tuesday, “had to do with political and social justice issues,” NPR reported. References to current events, like the police murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 and the Movement for Black Lives, were removed from approved books in order to comply with FDOE standards. The department also made edits to sections of books referencing historical topics like the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.
Other changes included the removal of a paragraph from one book that encouraged parents to have a discussion with their elementary school-aged children on why athletes were “taking a knee” to protest police brutality. A paragraph discussing socialist economies in the world, which originally stated that they may “promote greater equality while still providing a fully functioning government supervised economy,” was changed to read that they are “planned economies” that have “slow development and fewer technological advances because they move slowly around planning and approval, while limiting human incentive.”
Rejections were based on purported “inaccurate material, errors and other information that was not aligned with Florida law,” according to the department.
“To uphold our exceptional standards, we must ensure our students and teachers have the highest quality materials available — materials that focus on historical facts and are free from inaccuracies or ideological rhetoric,” FDOE commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said in a statement earlier this week.
Teachers and racial justice advocates condemned the decision to reject the textbooks or require edits.
Miami-Dade Public School board member Steve Gallon told CNN that attempts at “eliminating or modifying” the description of “historical facts” were detrimental to the education of children in the state.
“Social studies have always been at the fulcrum of ideas for students. These things happened,” Gallon said.
Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz also decried the state’s actions. “[Florida Republican Gov. Ron] DeSantis and extreme MAGA Republicans are bent on dumbing down America’s education system and silencing Black voices,” she said in a tweet.
In 2022, DeSantis signed the “Stop WOKE Act,” which restricts how Florida educators can discuss race, racism and LGBTQ topics in classrooms. The law forbids the teaching of materials that could potentially cause students discomfort or that are otherwise contested by parents or community members. Educators who violate the law’s standards can face disciplinary action, including termination. Districts are also at risk of losing their funding if they do not comply.
The law and other executive branch actions by DeSantis and his administration have created a chilling effect on the teaching of factual history in Florida classrooms, particularly lessons that highlight the struggles of marginalized groups in the United States. To avoid being found in violation of the law, school districts in Florida have implemented book bans, resulting in students losing access to reading materials in school libraries across the state.
“One thing is abundantly clear — Governor Ron DeSantis is committed to erasing our history and unraveling our democracy by indoctrinating our children and stripping away our fundamental freedoms,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement in response to the governor’s latest action.