Oklahoma Bill Would Effectively Let Any Parent Veto Any Public School Library Book


Oklahoma SB 1142 was introduced by Rob Standridge, a state senator. (numbering has been added).

[A.]Public school districts, charter schools, and public libraries are not allowed to maintain or promote an inventory.

[1]Books that focus on sex and sexual preference, sexual activity or perversion as their main subject are books.

[2]Books that have a sexual content that is not acceptable for a child to read or to approve before they are allowed to be exposed.

There is no First Amendment issue with a school district taking out books it deems inappropriate for children. You can find it here Board of Ed. v. PicoThe Court split in four on whether or not a school can take out library books because of the viewpoints expressed by the books. Justice White (who cast the decisive vote) explicitly refused to address this question. It seems likely, however that school librarians would remove at least some books that have been deemed too sexual. This is regardless of whether you believe it to be a good idea. It is up to readers to make that decision. I will however be cautious about exclusions of books that do not involve the study of important aspects of human life. These are likely to have a significant impact on adolescents given their first encounters with sexuality in high school.

But you may be curious as to how such decisions are made. This and many other issues are subject to subjective decision making by librarians, even if they decide which books to purchase. But if it’s the law that librarians may not buy, and indeed presumably must remove, certain books, then there would have to be a legal standard—and “of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent … would want to know of or approve of prior to their child being exposed to it” is just not a legally well-defined standard.

You can rest easy. Because of these two paragraphs, no judge, jury or librarian would ever have to follow such a standard.

[B.] [1.]If a parent, legal guardian, or student believes that a school district or public charter school is keeping book(s), they may write to ask the superintendent of the charter school or administrator of the school to have the book(s), or both, removed from the school district or public charter school or school library.

[2.]Within 30 days after receiving the request, any book requested for removal will be removed from the school district or charter school.

It’s true: As per the bill’s plain text, the school official is required to “remove”.[]” any book that a parent “believes” is “of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent … would want to know of or approve of prior to their child being exposed to it.” If a parent tells the superintendent they believe that, “Sexy Nature” is true, Romeo & Juliet Teenage sex or Othello “Beast with two backs” or the Bible (“Sodomy, etc.). The school should remove any other material that falls within the scope of subsection A. (By way of the way, while I don’t think that there are any Establishment Clause issues with schools libraries stocking the Bible but I do think they should or should have done so before other books and the internet made them so easy to find online.

And, if the school official doesn’t accede to the request, the parent can sue the school (that’s in subsection C)—for a statutory minimum of $10,000/day that the book is not removed. It gets even better.

[B.] [3.]Public school employees or charter school staff who are charged with taking out a book in a school or library shall not be allowed to work for two years. An administrator of a public school shall take the book out of the school district or public charter school.

It’s true, you’ll be fired and placed on a 2-year blacklist in public schools if your parents don’t accept you as a parent.[f]”Word request” to notify the school that a book isn’t suitable for their library.

Thank you to the U.S. Free Speech Union, for this tip.