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Education

Bill limiting sexual content in Oklahoma school libraries passes through committee

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A bill that would limit sexual content in school libraries passed out of the Senate Education Committee Tuesday.

Norman Republican Senator Rob Standridge had originally introduced a splashy, headline-grabbing bill that offered parents bounties for catching librarians who left a wide array of books on their shelves after receiving a complaint.

The original bill banned books that were about “ the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, orgender identity or books that are of a sexual nature.”

Senate Bill 1142, was pared down for its first public hearing in the Capitol. Now the measure simply bans books about the “study of sex, sexual lifestyles, or sexual activity.”

The bounties are gone. But Standridge says the bill can still provide protection for students while their parents aren’t with them.

“No adult goes into a public school library,” Standridge said during the bill’s hearing. “You’re not there to talk to your child as they peruse the shelves and look for all sorts of topics.”

StateImpact has reported on a number of measures that school librarians take to ensure school materials are appropriate. But book challenges and parent complaints are on the rise.

In a statement to StateImpact Tuesday following passage, the Oklahoma Library Association panned the bill and the process in which it was passed as a committee substitute allowing little time for review.

“The committee substitute for SB1142 was not made available to the public until after it was already adopted by the Senate Education committee,” the statement said. “We are reviewing the committee substitute but are disappointed we were unable to engage in this process due to the very unusual path this measure took to earn committee approval.”

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