Report: “Librarians Sue Over Missouri Law That Bans ‘Explicit Sexual Material,’ Spurred Book Removals”
From the Springfield News-Leader:
Librarians in Missouri are going to court to challenge a state law that has led to hundreds of books being banned or targeted for removal in schools across the state.
In a lawsuit filed by the Missouri ACLU in Kansas City, the groups allege that the law, which outlawed school officials from “providing explicit sexual material to a student,” is a violation of First Amendment rights and overly broad in scope and definition. Since it was signed into law last year, at least 11 districts have reportedly reviewed or removed hundreds of books from their libraries in response to the law.
“The law presents specific peril for school librarians, but also endangers the work and livelihoods of public and academic librarians who work with K-12 schools in various capacities,” said Joe Kohlburn, a committee chair with the Missouri Library Association, in a statement Thursday. “Librarians have been undermined politically in this state for long enough, and the fear of prosecution is an ongoing issue for keeping qualified professionals in Missouri, as well as bringing new people into the profession.”
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From the KC Star:
Michael Mansur, spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor, said the office had not yet seen the lawsuit so could not comment Thursday.
After the law went into effect in late August, districts across the state pulled hundreds of titles from school libraries, many of which are authored by or feature characters who are people of color or identify as LGBTQ. The legislation specifically prohibits images in school materials that could be considered sexually explicit, such as depictions of genitals or sex acts. As a result, most of the banned books are graphic novels. The law does provide some exceptions, such as for works of art or science textbooks.
Proponents of the legislation argued it would protect children from inappropriate content. “In schools all across the country, we’ve seen this disgusting and inappropriate content making its way into our classrooms,” state Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said in a statement after the legislation passed last session. “Instead of recognizing this as the threat it is, some schools are actually fighting parents to protect this filth. The last place our children should be seeing pornography is in our schools.”
The ACLU is asking the court to find the law unconstitutional and render it unenforceable, or enter a judgment clarifying how and when the law applies to eliminate the concern of arbitrary enforcement.
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Complete Statement/News Release: The ACLU of Missouri; Professional Library Organizations Challenge Government Censorship And Book Removals In Schools (via Missouri Library Association)
See Also: Petition Filed in Lawsuit
18 pages; PDF.
Filed under: Associations and Organizations, Libraries, News, School Libraries
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.