NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee lawmakers on Wednesday sent a bill for summer study that would target “obscene books” found in public school libraries.
As drafted, the bill would have allowed parents to report to the district superintendent books they deemed unsafe for minors. In response, the school would have to remove the book for 30 days to allow the school board to review the material to determine if it was acceptable for students to read it. For districts that do not comply, the state education commissioner would have the ability to withhold state funds.
The bill passed the House 63 to 24, but petered out for final passage through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator London Lamar, D-Memphis, requested that he be sent to summer study.
“I urge the committee not to do this,” said Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald. “It’s a very clear problem we have with obscenity in the library. It’s very narrow. I urge them not to send it there.”
The committee voted 6 to 3 to bring him to summer study.
“Some of the documents that were shown to me go far beyond what I expected to see,” said Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield. “There are far worse examples. That’s part of the dilemma here, where do you draw the line?”
Members of the public – ranging from students to concerned parents – spoke to the committee about the different books and views they had on the bill. Some who spoke to the committee were concerned that this would have negative effects on public librarians.
“If the librarian did this on purpose, he looked at it and knows it’s against a law, I have no problem with him being prosecuted to the full extent of the law” , said Sen. Paul Rose, R-Covington. “But an accidental inclusion, I don’t think a judge would prosecute.”
The ACLU of Tennessee said it agreed with sending the bill to summer study.
“We applaud today’s vote to send this misguided and unnecessary bill to summer study,” said ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg. “Obscene content is already banned in schools by law, as it should be. This bill was nothing more than unconstitutional censorship. All parents want schools where students are valued and accepted , and a truthful education that prepares children for success Stopping this bill allows schools to continue to create a safe environment to talk about difficult issues, supporting children from all walks of life.