Florida Teacher Is Fired for Posting Viral Video of Empty Classroom Bookshelves

The state is cracking down on books about racism and LGBTQ+ issues in schools, and teachers are now being punished for sounding the alarm.

Florida Teacher Is Fired for Posting Viral Video of Empty Classroom Bookshelves
Screenshot:Brian Covey/Twitter

Brian Covey, a substitute teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, was fired this week for posting a video showing rows of empty bookshelves in his classroom in late January, which several local teachers did after schools in the Florida’s Manatee and Duval counties received a directive to “remove or cover all classroom libraries until all materials can be reviewed.”

The motive for Covey’s firing is pretty nakedly political, considering the timing: His video went viral last month; Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was forced to address it on Wednesday at a press conference and called it a “fake narrative;” and Covey tweeted the next day that he’d been let go.

Duval County Public Schools confirmed Covey’s termination in a statement to First Coast News:

“In discussion between the district and ESS regarding this individual’s misrepresentation of the books available to students in the school’s library and the disruption this misrepresentation has caused, it was determined that he had violated social media and cell phone policies of his employer. Therefore, ESS determined these policy violations made it necessary to part ways with this individual.”

Earlier this month, Jezebel’s Rodlyn-mae Banting wrote about teachers in Manatee and Duval counties scrambling to empty their classroom libraries in order to avoid felony charges, as the state increasingly cracks down on any student reading that grapples with racism or LGBTQ+ issues. As she explained:

As per the Florida Department of Education training document, targeted books are those that “predominantly appeal to a prurient, shameful, or morbid interest,” are “patently offensive” and “without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.” But between DeSantis and the Florida State Board of Education quietly packing its seats with MAGA moms, the required “educational media certificate” seems to be less a measure of objectivity, and more a tool used to ban books that challenge officials’ racist and anti-LBGTQ+ views. According to the Washington Post, teachers who “knowingly or unknowingly” violate these rules can be charged with a third-degree felony ($5,000 fine and up to five years in jail) for exposing students to material that the Florida Department of Education deems “harmful to minors.”

Marie Masferrer, a former librarian in the Manatee County system, told the Washington Post that upon having their books taken away, students “began crying and writing letters to the principal, saying, ‘Please don’t take my books, please don’t do this.’”

DeSantis, a likely 2024 presidential hopeful, is going hard against books and education in general right now for some incomprehensible “culture war” reason. Just this week, he threatened to eliminate advanced placement (AP) classes throughout the state because they include African American studies, which he says lack “educational value.”

In this hellscape, it is at the very least heartening to see some Florida teachers pushing back and calling national attention to the dystopian state of their state. Covey, in particular, has been outspoken about the policy on social media, probably knowing he might be fired, harassed and attacked for doing so.

It feels appropriate to give Covey the final word here and just hope that he is re-employed immediately, as it’s pretty brave and inspiring for a man to risk his livelihood for something as important as students’ access to books.

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