Missouri school districts remove library books that can be found ‘explicit’ under new law – The Hill


The story at a glance

  • School districts in Missouri have reportedly begun removing books from libraries that may be considered “sexually explicit” under a new law that will take effect this month.

  • Under the law passed in June, Missouri public school teachers, staff and administrators can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor – which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine $2,000 – for providing “explicit sexual material” to students.

  • The Missouri School Librarians Association has warned its members against removing library books in anticipation of the law taking effect.

Some Missouri school districts have begun removing books that may be flagged as “sexually explicit” from their libraries under a new law taking effect at the end of the month that could charge school officials with providing sexual content to minors.

Under a law signed by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) in June, public school administrators, teachers and staff who provide ‘explicit sexual material’ to an underage student will be charged with a misdemeanor misdemeanor. Class A – punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The law, which will come into force on August 28, defines ‘explicit sexual material’ as any image or written description of sexual acts or nudity, but clarifies that these restrictions do not apply to learning materials containing diagrams. human anatomy or classic nudity content. works of art.

“School library collections contain both works of art and informational texts, and school library books, whether fiction or non-fiction, meet both of these requirements,” the school wrote on Tuesday. Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) in a statement. “Therefore, school districts should refrain from preemptively removing material from the school library” to comply with the new law.

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MASL said it is aware that some school districts in Missouri have removed library books deemed vulnerable to parental challenge once the law officially takes effect.

“This is concerning on many levels,” MASL wrote in the statement, adding that the group understands “the immense impact of taking on a challenge and will support our librarians in solidarity to preserve intellectual freedom.”

Similar moves to restrict sexualized content in schools have drawn criticism from free speech and civil rights advocates who say such policies target books about LGBTQ+ issues or identities and titles written by authors of color.

In February, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Wentzville School District after it removed seven books from school libraries dealing with issues related to race, sexual orientation and gender. gender identity. In February, the Wentzville School Board reversed its decision to permanently ban Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” but six other books – most of which center on LGBTQ+ characters – remain banned.

On Monday, a Wentzville school district administrator sent an email to district librarians asking them to immediately remove titles that may violate the new law from school libraries, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“From now on, we need you to review your libraries for records matching the language of this state law,” the administrator reportedly wrote. “If you come across something that needs to be deleted…take the book off the shelf.”

Nationwide, nearly 1,600 individual cases of banned books were reported between January and March of this year, according to the nonprofit organization PEN America. More than 40% of those bans were related to directives from state officials or elected lawmakers to investigate or remove books from schools.

Posted on August 12, 2022


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