Legislature revives, approves ban on obscene materials in school libraries
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A bill to allow parents to demand school libraries remove certain books from their collections is heading to the governor after lawmakers revived it Thursday afternoon.
The Senate approved legislation earlier in the session to prohibit school libraries from stocking materials some consider obscene or harmful to minors. The bill never got a hearing in the House. On Thursday, a conference committee added a version of the bill’s language to a different education bill. Doing this bypassed the normal process of hearings and floor amendments.
The final version of the bill prohibits school libraries from stocking materials that meet the definition of obscene or harmful to minors contained in state law. It also directs school boards to provide a catalogue of everything in the library’s collection and develop a process for a parent or a community member to request that a book be removed.
Republican lawmakers in a number of states have passed similar legislation in large part to target books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics, such as the graphic memoir Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe. Democrats said legislation like this would prevent LGBTQ+ youth from seeing their own lives and experiences reflected in literature and thus deprive them of a way to understand what they’re going through. They called the bill an effort to impose the views of one subset of people on an entire community.
“It’s giving us a realistic portrayal of the challenges and the burdens and the struggles that those minorities face,” Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said. “What we do with a bill like this is we empower the people that would take that away from these children.”
Republicans argued the state has a vested interest in protecting children when they are in the care of schools. Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, said state law already spells out a rigorous test to determine whether a work is, in fact, obscene or harmful to minors. He said he didn’t think materials used for educational purposes would be affected.
“We empower communities that fund our schools, they have a right to be able to challenge whether a book is obscene or harmful to a minor,” he said. “We worked very hard to make this about the most egregious content.”
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk. Gov. Eric Holcomb will have seven days to act on it once it is officially presented to him.