Bill sent to governor's desk, tightening school library restrictions

NOW: Bill sent to governor’s desk, tightening school library restrictions

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Last week, the Indiana House voted in favor of a bill that passed the state senate in February. Now, it just needs a signature from Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb.  

Teachers and school libraries are losing their legal argument that controversial books have educational value.  

The bill is a win for parental rights groups, but many are worried this infringes on first amendment rights.

"I think it's really interesting that this is all happening in Indiana on National Library Week," said Stephanie Murphy, executive director of the St. Joseph County Public Library.    

This week, Indiana lawmakers sent a bill to the governor’s desk, potentially making book banning in public schools easier.

“I like to say we have books that cover politics, religion, and how your brother is raising his kids. All those things that we know not to talk about at Thanksgiving, but we’ve got it all right here for you,” Murphy said.  

The law affects school libraries, but Stephanie Murphy with the St. Joseph County Public Library says it points to a larger movement to restrict all libraries across the country.  

“There is, across the nation, a greater move towards restricting books in libraries,” Murphy said. “And I think the concern about parental rights is always a concern that is about your own rights without considering the rights of others. So, there are many different kinds of families, and they might want something different for their kids to read than what you want, and that’s okay, and there should be space in the library for all of those families.”

“I think it’s easy to talk about the sex things that are really hard, but there’s a lot of stuff about race and racism that people want suppressed as well, and that’s really hard to swallow,” Murphy continued.  

She says books commonly targeted include race and LGBTQ+ themes.  

“You might not agree the same way... But it’s something so small,” said South Bend resident Callie Richardson. “But it’s something that should be expressed more and should be out there more because I'm gay.”  

The Indiana code outlines the definitions of materials that are "harmful to minors," which includes nudity and sexual content or a persuasiveness for minors to engage in sexual activities.

 “We know they serve all kinds of families, and a library collection should represent a diverse community,” Murphy said. “Libraries can and should have books on both sides of every topic, and when you limit that, you limit freedom of speech.”

The bill requires public school libraries, like those at all South Bend Schools, to publicly list their entire inventory.  

They must also implement a complaints process from community members.  

 “We should have an opinion,” said South Bend resident Roosevelt Stewart. “If we’re sending our children to school, I think we should have an upfront on the literature that’s expressed upon our children. And we understand that it’s a free country, but we should have some rights of say-so what is expressed upon our children.”

But most worrisome to Murphy, it opens the doors for teachers and librarians to face criminal charges for the books they offer in schools.  

If the bill is signed, librarians who violate the law could be charged with a level 6 felony and face up to two and a half years of jail time.

“Libraries really are that beacon of freedom in the United States. It’s part of the beauty of living in America is that you can believe what you want. And libraries should support that,” Murphy said.  

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