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Group concerned about national security to sue Gov. Scott over new textbook law

Citizens for National Security, a Boca Raton-based group of volunteers who want to warn the country about dangers of extremist ideologies, plans to file a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and the Department of Education on Thursday over changes to the state's textbook adoption law.

It is at least the eighth lawsuit naming Scott as a defendant since he took office this year. He signed a conforming education budget bill, SB 2120, into law on May 26. Citizens for National Security wants the new law repealed and blames Scott for not vetoing the textbook provision.

The group says the new textbook adoption process does not provide for enough time, readers or transparency relating to decisions on appropriate subject materials in schools.

"It is not possible for two people to review all the textbooks in Florida within a 4 month period of time," the lawsuit reads, "and thus Senate Bill 2120 renders it impossible for the Defendants to provide high quality education to all children in Florida as required by law."

Why include Scott as a defendant?

"We believe that he was one of the driving forces behind this effort to streamline these procedures and to push his agenda rather than listen to one of the voices of the people of Florida," said attorney, rabbi and former Democratic state Rep. Barry Silver. "It's kind of consistent with how he governs."

Scott spokesman Lane Wright dismissed the claim as a sensational "trick.

"This isn't the first time Gov. Scott has been inappropriately added to a lawsuit where he’s not a proper defendant," Wright said. "This is all just a ploy to get media splash, and any good lawyer would know better."

Scott has been named as a defendant in other lawsuits over high-speed rail, election law changes, drug testing of state employees, redistricting and prison privatization.

The new law replaces the old textbook adoption process, in which statewide committees of at least 10 members reviewed materials and made recommendations to the education commissioner. These committees consisted of at least five teachers, a couple supervisors, a school board member and two people not associated with education, said DOE spokeswoman Cheryl Etters.

The new process leaves the job to two “subject matter experts” selected by the commissioner, with a third expert coming in to break a tie. The lawsuit says these changes were inserted during the waning hours of session.

"They did it without debate," said William Saxton, Citizens for National Security's chairman. “In the process, they disenfranchised not just us but all citizens from the selection of textbooks.”

Saxton said the group conducted a 14-month research project on history and geography textbooks used in public schools. Saxton said his group showed the results to both the education department and Scott in efforts to get citizens familiar with the group's findings on the committees.

“We were rebuffed at every turn," he said.

The group found, according to the lawsuit, that some school textbooks include false information about certain religions and "purposely omit factual information if it may appear unfavorable to them and/or politically incorrect." These books obscure the "present danger of fundamentalist religion" and either ignore, question or deny evolution theory.

The group said its study showed evidence of  "Islamic bias" in textbooks.

"The ultimate goal of this project is to remove Islam-biased, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian history and geography textbooks from middle- and high-school classrooms nationwide," its website states.

The lawsuit will be filed Thursday afternoon at the Palm Beach County courthouse.