A Florida School District rejects donated dictionaries amid DeSantis book freeze 

Hundreds of dictionaries earmarked for donation from a Venice Rotary Club sit collecting dust, precluded from being given to Sarasota County students. Even dictionaries aren’t safe from the Sarasota Schools book freeze.

Ahead of the 2022-23 school year, the Sarasota County School District stopped all donations and purchases of books for school libraries while it waits for additional guidance from the Florida Department of Education about how to navigate the effects of new education laws.

The freeze comes as HB 1467 took effect July 1, requiring all reading material in schools to be selected by an employee with a valid education media specialist certificate. The district was still looking to hire three media specialists to vet books as of Friday.

HB 1467 was an education bill passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The law set term limits for school board members, revised selection requirements for school materials and required meetings related to instructional material to be public.

After donating about 300 dictionaries per year and about 4,000 to date, the club for the first time has been denied.

“I would suspect somebody, anyone, could approve a dictionary in less than one minute,” Reese said. “Why are we going through all this trouble?”

The club partners with an organization called the Dictionary Project, and Reese said he asked a representative from the group if there were any offensive or obscene words in the dictionaries the group donates. He said there were not.