Substitute teacher fired after taking video of empty shelves at Duval middle school library

Brian Covey, the substitute teacher who released a viral video of empty bookshelves in a Duval County middle school has been fired by the staffing company that contracted with DCPS.

The video documenting empty bookshelves in the school library at Mandarin Middle School spurred heated responses from the Governor and Education Commissioner.

“That video, that was a fake narrative. That was not true,” said Governor Ron DeSantis last Tuesday.

“I think some of this with the empty bookshelves and all that is staged,” said Florida Commissioner of education Manny Diaz last Monday.

DCPS even released this video showing the full library late last week.

RELATED: Governor DeSantis discusses education in Jacksonville

In the video, books are clearly visible on many shelves, but even in the district’s video, the shelves documented by Covey remain nearly empty.

“If you look at the video they actually took books and put them facing outwards to make the shelves look like they had books on them,” said Covey.

Covey was fired late last week, with the district citing his “misrepresentation of the books available to students” as a violation of the staffing company’s cell phone and social media policies.

Covey countered by pointing out that by the district’s own admission, only roughly 7,000 of 1.6 million books have been vetted by the district.

“99.625% of books are inaccessible to students after 16 school days of reviewing. So, to me that’s unacceptable,” said Covey.

The Florida Department of Education said in a statement issued Monday that criticized Duval’s rollout of the state’s new curriculum and transparency laws.

“Duval, like every other school district, should already have an efficient system in place to ensure students have access to educational and age-appropriate material,” said DOE Press Secretary Cassie Palelis. “The Department expects there to be no bare bookshelves in any school in the state.”

DCPS told Action News Jax it had directed principles to keep media centers open, but the district added media center hours have been reduced in some schools as media specialists work to review books.

Covey argues that means access to books has still been reduced.

At the current pace, he calculates it would take the district’s 54 media specialists more than a decade to vet all 1.6 million books.

DeSantis doubled down on the critique of DCPS, calling the multi-month review for books a “joke”.

“First of all, I don’t think parents are challenging that. I think they’re doing it unilaterally to try to create an issue, but that can be resolved in about two minutes,” said DeSantis.

READ: A ‘joke:’ Gov. DeSantis considers tweaks to Florida law to speed up review process of school books

“As a parent, I’m 100 percent on board with cataloging and putting books by grade level, but it needs to be funded, it needs to be put together the right way and it can’t impact my kid’s education,” said Covey.

When we asked the district whether it was looking to boost staffing to help speed up the review process, the district highlighted the fact only certified media specialists can conduct those reviews under state law.

You can apply for one of those positions here.

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