A Tennessee library bill is raising renewed concerns as a Republican party sponsor has said it will burn books deemed inappropriate.
A last-minute amendment to give the Politically Appointed Textbooks Committee final approval for books in Tennessee school libraries sparked a protest at the Capitol and heated debate in the General Assembly on Wednesday.
legislation, HB 2666Earlier this month, the Senate passed a relatively straightforward bill to add members to the state Textbook Committee and to task the committee with providing guidance to schools when reviewing materials to ensure they Suitable for age and maturity levels. about the students.
But House sponsors of the bill sparked an uproar among some librarians and parent groups this week with an amendment that would require the committee to release a list of “approved” materials that Tennessee schools can make available to students.
On Wednesday morning, Representative Jerry Sexton of R-Penn withdrew the controversial amendment requiring the commission to release its own list of approved materials, but introduced a new version requiring the commission to review the collections at every Tennessee school library.
The committee will have the power to approve or reject entire collections or individual materials by law.
The House and Senate wordings now differ and must pass before the conference committee to settle differences on a tight deadline, with lawmakers planning to postpone the session by the end of the week.
The legislative leadership repeatedly argued in this session that it does not support bans or broad censorship of books, and instead introduce increased parental supervision of “age-appropriate” materials in school libraries.
But in Wednesday’s House debate, Sexton suggested he would take things a step further.
“I will burn them,” Sexton said of the books he deemed inappropriate.
A Republican lawmaker has said he will burn books he considers inappropriate
To some, the amendment looked like a last-minute power grab as the legislature plans to end its session this week. This year, the Republican leadership supported multiple measures to increase oversight of school libraries amid repeated pressure from conservative groups on the issue.
House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison tried to back off rhetoric on the issue earlier this spring, after conservative critics compared librarians to sexual predators during a bill debate.
Republicans provided limited examples of inappropriate material available to Tennessee students, often confusing books on sex or difficult topics such as rape with pornography.
Commenting on the book burning, Sexton said on Wednesday that he would not be on the committee, so the books would not be burned.
“We don’t ban books, we just remove them from the library,” Sexton said.
Representative Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, said the legislation “shrinks the world to young people.”
“This bill is dangerous and takes Tennessee in a dangerous direction,” Johnson said.
Librarians, students and parents are concerned about the bill
Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, said Wednesday that he has received repeated calls from librarians in his district about the bill, concerned about a previous amendment that would task the committee with creating a list that Tennessee schools must follow.
Sexton said the Textbook Commission would only be interested in the most egregious examples of objectionable material.
But the bill does not include specific definitions beyond requiring subjects that are “appropriate” to students’ ages and maturity levels, giving A committee Broad authority on school subjects in Tennessee.
The commission has already sparked controversy over some political appointments, including Conservative activist Laurie Cardoza Mor. Dozens of religious leaders have asked House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R. Crossville, to rescind the appointment Cardoza Moore fears he was ‘anti-Muslim’,” although Sexton came forward on the date.
The Williamson Strong Group, a Williamson County-based political action group with the support of parents, organized a protest Wednesday morning against the bill. opponents Cited the overall concern about library censorship bills And give additional authority to the Textbook Committee.
Lindsey Hornick, a student at Franklin High School in Williamson County, took time off from school Wednesday morning to protest.
“I understand why parents are so interested in the content their children are learning,” Hornick said. “However, I come from a very open home.” “My parents allow me to choose what I read and watch, and I personally believe that my own literary choice has made me a more diverse individual. I would hate to see an education system bound by a board that contains almost no diversity.”
Andrew Maranis, a New York Times bestselling author based in Brentwood, described libraries as “the best place ever” in any school.
“It is a place where children have a chance to really be themselves, to discover new worlds, to discover new books, to see themselves reflected in books, and to learn about other types of people,” Maranis said.
Contact Melissa Brown at email@example.com.
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