Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida, is currently conducting a thorough review of all materials in classroom libraries to ensure compliance with a new state law. House Bill 1467, signed by the governor last year, has prompted teachers to temporarily pack up their books until they can be certified.

According to an email sent by a Duval County Public Schools principal to teachers, classroom libraries are being restricted, and student access to certain books must be removed. The principal expressed concerns about potential felony charges, as they are responsible for ensuring compliance with school district procedures.

The accuracy of the email, obtained by Action News Jax, has been confirmed by a representative from the Florida Department of Education, in line with the new state guidelines.

Under the Florida statute, all educators could face third-degree felony charges if they violate the law, which prohibits books, pamphlets, magazines, or printed materials that contain explicit and harmful descriptions of sexual excitement or conduct for minors.

Many teachers in Duval County Public Schools share a common fear of potential consequences for violating the law. Chris Guerrieri, a DCPS teacher, expressed concerns about getting in trouble or facing disciplinary action.

According to a statement on the district's website, the Florida Department of Education has trained all school districts in the state to exercise caution when determining if a book is developmentally appropriate for students. The new law requires all books in elementary school libraries, including classroom collections for independent reading, to be reviewed by a certified media specialist.

At the beginning of the year, the state provided training to media specialists, librarians, and other staff members, emphasizing that violation of the law constitutes a third-degree felony offense.

Dale Carson, a criminal defense attorney and law and safety expert for Action News Jax, explained that felonies of this nature can carry a punishment of up to five years in prison. He compared the severity of these charges to other third-degree felonies, such as manslaughter.

The district reassured teachers that they would receive a list of approved books for continued classroom reading while the remaining books are under review. District staff members are working alongside teachers and certified media specialists to efficiently review and update the list as books are approved. The district plans to provide more specific guidance on the review process, and once a book is deemed appropriate, it will be included in a publicly accessible online database for parents and the community to view.

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