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Florida substitute teacher who posted false narrative about Florida book bans has been fired

 February 21, 2023

On Jan. 27, a video on social media began to go viral, purportedly showing rows of empty shelves in a Florida school's library due to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' supposed policy to ban all books for children.

The substitute teacher who posted that viral video, Brian Covey, was fired from his job last week for his blatant "misrepresentation" of the facts and the unnecessary "disruption" his social media post caused, according to The Hill.

The incident stemmed from a bill that DeSantis recently signed into law that required all public schools in Florida to conduct a review of their books to ensure that they were age-appropriate and did not contain any "pornographic" material, such as descriptions or illustrations of sexual acts.

Video purports to show all books banned from school library

On Jan. 26, Covey, who worked as a substitute teacher at Mandarin Middle School in the Duval County Public Schools system posted a thread of tweets in which he claimed school officials had "removed every single book from my children's classrooms" and the school's library.

In response to doubters, Covey followed that the next day with the video that was captioned, "Since y'all wanna play the 'this isn't really happening' game."

Since first posted, the video has received more than 13.5 million views, been "liked" more than 100,000 times, and been retweeted tens of thousands of times.

Fired for "misrepresentation" that caused "disruption" for district

Florida's First Coast News reported that Gov. DeSantis was asked at a press conference on Feb. 14 about the viral video that claimed to show that all books for schoolchildren had been banned and removed, but the governor quickly cut off the reporter to explain that the video pushed a "fake narrative" and was simply "not true," then proceeded to explain what was actually occurring.

Just one day later, the outlet noted, Covey revealed that he had been fired by Duval County Public Schools – or more accurately, by a company called ESS that has a contract with DCPS to provide the district with substitute teachers.

"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," DCPS said in a statement. "Therefore, ESS determined these policy violations made it necessary to part ways with this individual."

First Coast News further reported that the state had previously urged school districts to "err on the side of caution" in reviewing books for inappropriate materials, and it appears that some schools took that to the extreme by removing all books, even those that would obviously be acceptable, only to then slowly return them to the shelves once they'd been cleared.

"We did direct teachers to temporarily reduce their classroom library collections to titles that were previously approved while waiting for media specialists to curate a more expansive list of approved titles," DCPS Superintendent Diana Greene told district employees in a letter, according to the outlet, adding, "However, at no time should a classroom have been without reading resources."

Viral video "shows less than half the story"

Prior to being fired, Covey continued to post misleading tweets and videos about the ongoing book review that were shared by other users, and one of those posts actually warranted a rebuttal tweet and video from DCPS.

"The viral video you are sharing shows less than half the story. Yes, those shelves were empty. But they were in a room full of books. See the video below for the full story," the district's official account posted.

It is unclear when, exactly, the ordered book reviews will be completed and all approved books will be returned to the shelves.