Schools block donated dictionaries amid Ron DeSantis’ book crackdown

The definition of The “woke” literature of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has apparently become so extensive that a public school district is now blocking a dictionary donation.

Hundreds of dictionaries slated for distribution by a local Rotary Club are gathering dust as the Sarasota County School District awaits guidance from the Florida Department of Education on how to proceed in light of an education bill recently signed by Republican Gov. The Sarasota-Herald Tribune reported Friday.

All book donations and purchases have been halted in the district for the rest of the year because the new law (HB 1467) requires books to be approved for suitability by state-certified media specialists, a job that currently does not exist in the district.

DeSantis, who has signed laws that also limit discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public school classrooms, has said HB 1467 will help prevent “indoctrination through the school system.”

The Sarasota district, which has nearly 45,000 students across 62 schools south of Tampa, last week ordered all principals to block new books from school media centers and classroom libraries until at least January, a district spokesman confirmed to HuffPost.

Gar Reese, a member of the Venice Suncoast Rotary Club, told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune that the club has been donating dictionaries to district elementary schools for nearly 15 years. The club works with the non-profit Dictionary Project to donate around 300 each year. To date, the program has delivered around 4,000 dictionaries.

“I would suspect that someone, anyone, could approve a dictionary in less than a minute,” Reese told the paper. “Why are we going through all this trouble?”

Reese said he reached out to district officials to try to resolve the issue to no avail.

“It’s just kind of disappointing, really,” Reese said. “Nobody wants to argue over a dictionary.”

Craig Maniglia, the district’s director of communications, told the Tribune that officials are still awaiting “guidance” regarding the dictionary donation.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee said in a 44-page ruling that the act violates the First Amendment and is impermissibly vague. Walker refused to issue a stay that would keep the law in effect pending any appeal by the state.

The judge said the law, as applied to corporate diversity, inclusion and bias training, turns the First Amendment “upside down” because the state precludes speech by prohibiting discussion of certain concepts in training programs.

Two other cases also challenge the law. One of them, by a group of K-12 teachers and a student, claims the law violates constitutional protections for free speech, academic freedom and access to information in public schools.

It is not yet clear whether Walker’s decision could affect DeSantis’ public school restrictions.

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