The Texas House passed a bill last month, HB 900, to regulate sexual material in public and charter schools. If made into law, it would remove books from schools that describe or depict sexual behavior in an offensive way. The Republican-majority senate is expected to pass a companion version of the bill, and Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law. The law would be called the READER Act: Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources.
The Daily Signal suggested that this bipartisan bill “could become the model for ensuring public school libraries don’t provide sexual content to children.”
The bill defines two main categories of sexual material: “sexually explicit material,” which portrays sexual conduct in a “patently offensive” way, and “sexually relevant material,” which is not necessarily offensive. “Patently offensive” is defined by Texas law as “so offensive on its face as to affront current community standards of decency.”
“Sexually Explicit Material”
Book vendors would have to recall the sexually explicit material they have already sold to public schools and they could no longer sell sexually explicit materials to public schools. If they were to do so, public schools could no longer buy any library materials from that vendor until the vendor took appropriate action to correct their offence.
“Sexually Relevant Material”
Sexually relevant material that is not sexually explicit (i.e. not offensive) would still be allowed in public schools, but students could not check out the book to use outside the school library without parental consent.
The original version of the bill when first introduced wouldn’t have allowed students to “access” these materials without parental consent, but the language has been changed in the House’s final version to pertain to checking books out of the library. Presumably, under the current wording, students would be allowed to access sexually relevant materials within their public school libraries but not check them out to bring out of the library without written parental permission.
Vendors to public school libraries would have to report annually the sexually explicit and sexually relevant materials they have previously sold to school and charter schools and are still being used by the schools. This information would be published publicly.
The Effectual Banning of Certain Themes?
Texas state representative Ron Reynolds, a Democrat, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to require an annual report on the demographics of the authors and characters of the affected books.
Reynolds told KERA, “Banned books are not new but they have gained new relevance in an escalating culture war that puts books about racism, sexuality, and gender identity at risk in public schools and libraries. The books most frequently challenged tend to have certain themes in common.”
HB 900’s author, state Rep. Jared Pattrson, said to KERA that “This is a problem with sexually explicit material,” not racially related material. He also pointed to the fact that HB 900 would prevent public school libraries from removing books based solely on the ideas the books contain or the personal background of its authors or characters.
We Found Even Partially Blurred Content to be Too Indecent to Publish
Some books currently available in certain schools in Texas contain shockingly sexually explicit and offensive content. The Daily Signal’s report on HB 900 includes blurred images from four graphic novels. But even with parts of the images blurred, the content is so repulsive that Stream editors decided not to republish The Daily Signal’s important article.
The Daily Signal’s reporting highlights the fact that offensive, inappropriate, sexually explicit content portraying both homosexual and heterosexual sexual behavior is currently available to students in Texas public school libraries.
As MassResistance has pointed out repeatedly in their reporting on their own activism, filth like this is readily available to minors in public libraries and public school libraries across the nation. The question is whether more laws like the future READER Act will bring some moral sanity back to our nation’s libraries.
Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow Aliya on Twitter @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.
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