Dozens of books were made available to students at the Curls for Queens event on September 18 (Craig Moore/ WFSU Public Media)
Some parents have long found fault with what their students are exposed to in schools. Traditionally, the issue that has generated the most friction has been sex education. Today, these frictions are amplified in the context of a continuous return to issues of race and gender. Karen Moran, with a group called BEST SOS America, came to the Senate Education Committee hearing on Senate Bill 1300 to voice her concerns to lawmakers.
“We have porn, we have critical race [theory]we have gender confusion and other objectionable materials in our schools,” Moran said, before reading aloud from a book called “It’s OK to be yourself,” which explains the identity of kind to children.
Moran claimed there were 112 copies of the book in Palm Beach libraries. A search of the county library system turned up no references. A school district spokeswoman is looking into the claim. A Palm Beach attorney alleged that one of his charter schools showed cartoons to LGBTQ children, but when pressed he declined to name the school.
A proposal by Republican Sen. Joe Gruters originally sought to lower school board salaries after two years of battles over school closures, quarantines and the wearing of masks. Gruters’ proposal tries to counter a House plan that would strip local school board members of their salaries — instead, Gruters wants to cap those salaries so they don’t exceed what state lawmakers earn .
“The Chamber has zero as a starting point, I think people should be compensated and that will continue in this discussion. I think what we get is fair enough for what school board members should be paid,” he said.
He also amended his bill to include lengthy language around educational materials and how they are approved and vetted. The plan requires school boards to post these materials online, have a process for approval and removal, and give parents a greater say in what stays and what happens. Review committees should include parents with children in public schools. Where Gruters sees an effort to increase transparency, others see censorship.
“You ask other people to make choices for other people’s children. I don’t think you should ban books because someone is upset. Because the reality is that there are transgender children…it’s the biology of sexual orientation. We are not all heterosexual. And most loving-hearted people, I hope, aren’t offended by that,” said one person who identified herself as Susan Etker.
Much of the public commentary on the bill, particularly on issues of race and sexual and gender identity, has upset several senators, such as Democrat Shevrin Jones, an openly gay black man.
“As you go and plead – and please defend your children, I support that – but be careful how you plead to make sure you don’t hurt anyone. My father always taught my brothers and me that when you lead and speak, lead and speak with love.
Although the bill is supported by Republicans, not all Republican lawmakers approve of it 100%. Senator Travis Hutson is one of them. Although he voted in favor of the measure and pushed back against critics who claim it promotes censorship, Hutson says the censorship is already there since parental input is generally not taken into account when schools choose material. teaching materials. However, he is irritated by the plan to reduce the salaries of school board members.
“Where I have serious reservations are the punitive damages we impose on school boards that take away or limit their salaries. I don’t think they need to be punished for the decisions they make, even if I don’t agree with them.
Gruters says he’s not trying to punish school districts. But school districts don’t feel that way. The original version of the bill would have required school boards to give people at least three minutes to speak at meetings, even if those comments were aimed at board members personally.
The revised plan removes that language, much to the relief of school boards that have endured a barrage of abuse and threats over the past two years.