Anti-LGBTQ Groups Are Helping Enforce a ‘Book Ban’ Law in Florida

3 of 4 people appointed to train librarians in the state belong to groups that oppose LGBTQ books. None of them have library experience.
A person's hands holding the book "Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe
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In the wake of a recent law passed in Florida, groups of anti-LGBTQ activists are making sure they will be the ones guiding schools on how to curate and display books in libraries across the state.

Under direction from state officials, the volunteers have been charged with training Florida’s public school librarians (also called media specialists) on how to navigate House Bill 1467,  which requires school districts to be transparent in the selection of instructional materials and books on library shelves. Signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, 2022, it was nicknamed the state’s “Book Banning” bill by opponents, who say it will be utilized to remove books politicians and some parents have deemed objectionable.


DeSantis’ administration put out a call for parental nominees for the volunteer positions, and gave them a week to respond. Out of nearly 100 parent applicants, four were chosen—three are either chapter leaders of Moms for Liberty (M4L) or affiliated with Florida Citizens Alliance (FLCA), two groups that have led a recent push to ban books on LGBTQ and racial justice topics. One parent representative for the workgroup, Michelle Beavers, nominated herself, according to local sources. She is also the leader of Moms for Liberty’s Brevard County chapter. 

While M4L members have recently made headlines for harassing teachers and librarians at school board meetings, FLCA has been active for longer. In 2019, the group released a report called “Porn in Schools” which listed children’s books written by queer and Black authors, including The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris, and Two Dads by Carolyn Robertson. 


“There’s just a lack of understanding of true library work and library standards in general when it comes to the Library Bill of Rights, when it comes to collection development and making sure that we represent all viewpoints and diversity in our collections,” Michelle Jarrett, Library Media Supervisor for the Osceola County School District told Motherboard.

The workgroup meetings are happening after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration instructed “parents of students” to help train school librarians on how to navigate the state’s book ban law. In a meeting earlier this week, Jarrett says that one commenter, identified only as “JD” in screenshots of a transcript provided to Motherboard, called her a “groomer ally”—using an inflammatory term frequently used to falsely conflate LGBTQ people and their supporters with pedophilia and child abuse.

Needless to say, it didn’t sit well with her. 

“It was the first time I had ever seen my name and the word groomer in the same place,” Jarrett said. “I was really taken aback because I thought, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ I'm in my 27th year of education, I've been a media specialist since 2004. I'm a district supervisor. You know, I volunteer my time to serve as the president of the Florida Association of Media Education. But when you are continually vilified, it wears on you.” 


Despite the harassment, Jarrett feels that serving on the workgroup is important for the state of Florida.

“It's important that we are being rational and we are defending the rights of our students and our media specialists and our teachers,” she added. “If we stop doing the work, then the other people win.” 

In the same meeting, Jennifer Pippin, a chapter leader of Moms for Liberty in Indian River county, Florida, suggested that books the group claims contain “sexually-explicit” content should be moved into the adult section of the public library. 

“This way, if a parent does want their children to read these books that are not within the statutes and laws for the state of Florida, that parent still has the ability to check that book out with their child and discuss it with them,” Pippin said during the meeting. “Just because a parent allows their children to read this book doesn’t mean that the school district and FLDOE can not follow the laws and statutes that are here to protect children.” 

Florida’s Department of Education (FLDOE) public school library workgroup is a microcosm of the national fight to keep books with LGBTQ themes on library shelves. For months, librarians have dealt with outside attacks from anti-LGBTQ groups over book displays and popular events like drag queen story hours

Motherboard obtained a screenshot of a message sent from Pippin to fellow out-of-state M4L members, rallying them to attend this particular meeting—many of which spammed the Microsoft Teams chat with messages like “follow the law” and “just don’t break the law it’s not rocket science”. 

At the October 18 meeting, Pippin acknowledged that the workgroup parents aren’t actually trained media specialists, which she feels keeps them from fully engaging in discussion. But that hasn’t stopped many members of her group from pushing to have books they deem objectionable removed from libraries.

“One of their favorite things to do is to read pages from books out of context,” Jen Cousins, co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project told Motherboard. “On their sides, for instance, they're showing just a small piece of the overall work that they're putting out there for shock value. You know the moderator has to be like ‘You might be offended, now is the time to turn your screen off.’ My god, it's just feeding into their narrative that, you know, we were filling our schools with porn.”