Public Schools

Oklahoma Legislator Puts Bounty On School Library Books

  Rob Boston

Christian nationalist groups are excited over a bill a state legislator in Oklahoma has introduced that, if enacted, would decimate public school libraries across the state.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman), would give parents the power to demand the removal of books “of a sexual nature.” According to the Christian nationalist group American Family Association, the measure targets any book that deals with “the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, [or] gender identity.”

Standridge’s bill, introduced last month, is extremely punitive. As The Hill reported, “Parents believing a book violates the bill may demand school officials remove it within 30 days. If the book is not removed during this time, the school employee tasked with getting rid of it will be terminated – subject to due process – and prohibited from working at another school for at least two years. Parents may then seek ‘monetary damages,’ according to the bill, including a minimum of $10,000 for each day the challenged book is not removed.”

Under a standard this broad, just about any book that contained even an oblique reference to sex could be challenged – including the Bible. (If you don’t believe me, check out the story of Onan and this racy poetry.)

Unfortunately, we’re likely to see more bills like this in state legislatures. Some conservative lawmakers have decided that scaring parents over alleged dirty books in school libraries is a winning political strategy.

Of course, public school libraries don’t stock any material that meets the legal definition of obscenity. What they do contain are books designed to help young people who may be grappling with issues of gender identity or sexual orientation or who might have questions about their bodies and human sexuality. If Standridge and those who think like him have their way, these books will be pulled from library shelves and tossed into oblivion.

The only thing Standridge and his allies seek to “protect” young people from is their right to learn and understand the world around them. He seeks to elevate ignorance over knowledge, judgment over tolerance and fear over understanding.

No parents should want that for their children.

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The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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