A bill to allow certain books deemed harmful to children to be banned from schools and public libraries was discussed by Indiana state officials last month.
Senate Bill 17 “removes schools and certain public libraries from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal claims alleging: dissemination of material harmful to minors; or performance harmful to minors,” according to the Indiana General Assembly website.
A citizen can go to their local prosecutor to ask for a book to be banned, and the prosecutor can then take action against the library.
The bill passed the Indiana Senate with a 34-15 vote on Feb. 1 and was referred to the House Committee on Education.
The bill follows a recent national trend to ban books from public libraries and schools.
“The American Library Association said in a preliminary report that it received an ‘unprecedented’ 330 reports of book challenges, each possibly including multiple books, last fall,” according to The New York Times.
“It would really reduce opportunities for our people,” said Indiana State Rep. Sheila Klinker, D-27.
Klinker is a former high school teacher who taught at the Lafayette School Corporation for more than 34 years and is a minority member of the education committee in the majority Republican House.
“I think (the bill) is absolutely an affront to very hard-working teachers and librarians.”
Klinker said libraries and schools already have processes in place to regulate which books reach students.
“Our librarians at Miami Elementary School, with whom I have worked for several years, and at Tecumseh were very careful about the material the children were reading and studying.
“They worked so diligently trying to get the right material for the right subject, and honestly, I’ve never been reprimanded or seen the librarian reprimanded for having bad material in the library.”
The American Library Association’s website lists a series of requirements for books in school libraries, including that the book “be appropriate for the subject area and for the age, emotional development, level of ability, learning styles and the social, emotional and intellectual development of the students for whom the materials are selected.
Jos Holman, Tippecanoe County Librarian and former chair of the American Library Association’s Black Caucus, said he thinks systems already exist for parents to voice concerns about library materials.
“There is already a formal process in place so anyone can use that process to challenge any material we may have.”
Holman and Klinker said they believe the motivations behind the bill’s creation came from parents who wanted to censor their children’s content.
“I think (the bill) comes from a conservative group of people who don’t want their kids to know some of the real facts,” Klinker said. “They didn’t want students to read about LGBTQ situations or gender differences. That’s where it all started. »
“The motivation has to do with a legislator or multiple legislators who believe they would serve their local constituents well by pushing this bill through,” Holman said. “The communication from the parents has reached lawmakers where they believe it would be a public service to prevent this from happening and to prevent this subject of critical race theory from being discussed, explored and taught again. “
Bert Chapman, political science librarian at Purdue and adviser to Purdue Young Americans for Freedom, said he believes a student’s education should be determined by their parents.
“I think it’s vitally important that parents are the ultimate determinants of what their children aren’t allowed to read or see,” Chapman said.
Many libraries have a board of trustees made up of parents who decide whether or not a book is suitable for an age group, he said. Nevertheless, legislatures are authorized to regulate public resources if they believe it benefits their constituents.
“Anything a government can give to individuals or communities can be taken back by the government,” he said.
Klinker said the bill was referred to the education committee last week but was not heard and “most likely died.”
“It’s possible that (the authors of the bill) will try to put it in another bill,” she said.
Klinker said she will continue to oppose all bills with similar rhetoric and believes people will not tolerate content censorship.
“I think it’s scary and I think there will be pushback, and people won’t accept the fact that they can’t (read) the truth,” Klinker said.
Holman said he is not currently concerned about the bill and believes Tippecanoe County residents will oppose the bill.
“I cannot speak for the local school system. I cannot speak for the whole community,” Holman said. “I think it’s unlikely there will be the same kind of traction in terms of supporting a bill.”
Senator James Tomes, the author of the bill, said he was unable to schedule an interview beginning Wednesday afternoon, due to his unavailability, as the second reading deadline for Senate bills is this week.
Senators Jeff Raatz and Michael Young, the other authors of the bill, did not respond to calls or emails for comment.