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Indiana school library materials bill revived in committee

A view in a library. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers on Wednesday added controversial language to a state House bill that would remove a legal defense for school libraries if their educators are accused of offering library books deemed harmful to students.

That language, derived from a Senate proposal that passed earlier this session in February, leapt from bill to bill this year after passing the Senate on its own.

Lawmakers introduced the language as an amendment to a separate Senate bill and took testimony on that wording in a House education committee earlier this month. But after Thursday’s 7-3 committee vote, however, the language now rests in a House bill related to student assessments.

Democratic Rep. Ryan Dvorak argued shifting such language around to different legislation was a “sneaky move,” as there was not a full House vote on the language before Republican lawmakers inserted it into the bill.

In testimony, those who supported the legislation worried sexually inappropriate or “pornographic” materials are available to children in Indiana school libraries. Critics, however, were concerned the legislation could open the door to criminal prosecutions of educators for providing books about so-called controversial topics.

Under the bill, Indiana public schools would also be required to create a complaints process for community members who take issue with or find obscene a book assigned or available to their child. School libraries would additionally be required to publish a catalogue of their materials on the school’s website, or in a hard copy upon request.

Republican Sen. Jim Tomes, the author of the Senate bill that passed the chamber in February, told lawmakers parents had brought him several inappropriate books in their libraries, among them “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, a coming-of-age story about gender and sexuality, which was the most “challenged” book of 2022 for the second year in a row, according to the American Library Association. ___

Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at