WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Controversy continues over book banning in the state of Tennessee.
Last week, the Wilson County School board voted to move The Perks of Being a Wallflower to the mature reading list.
Following that decision, the school board received a letter from a Tennessee state representative that claims the school board is in violation of a state law by not removing it.
“Tennessee law is clear, it is illegal for these kids to be presented with these books,” said state Rep. Susan Lynn for District 57.
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, Lynn sent a letter to the Wilson County School Board, stating that keeping The Perks of Being a Wallflower on the high school shelves is in violation of the state’s criminal obscenity law. She referred to a section in the law that states there are exceptions when it comes to an educational setting, except when material is displayed to a minor.
“I disagree with her interpretation of the law. But I am not surprised by it,” said Carrie Pfeiffer.
Last week, passionate arguments were heard on both sides about whether the book should stay or go. The school board decided it should be moved to the mature reading list which requires parents to give their child permission to check out the book.
“We have been given the right and the authority to make these decisions by the electorate,” Pfeiffer said.
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The legislature recently passed a law that requires schools to create a policy to review books. The Wilson County School Board created a book review committee. The committee brought forward 11 books. Two books have been removed.
“Those books that are pornographic should never even reach the school review committee because they are already illegal,” Lynn said.
“It’s her opinion that this book is obscene and that’s what she based her allegations on and that’s always been difficult areas to determine in the courts,” Ronald Harris said.
As a Nashville First Amendment attorney, Harris weighed in on the two laws.
“I think it would be very difficult for a prosecutor to look at this and say this is obscene. I think it would be a very difficult case for them to make.”
According to Lynn’s letter, she urged the school board to take immediate action and remove the book from the schools.
Lynn told News 2 she is talking with the state attorney general’s office about how to move forward with books she believes are violating the state obscenity law. She later wrote in a statement:
“The school districts should document the pornographic book titles they were shipped and provide the Tennessee Attorney General’s office with the titles and the distributor’s information. His office can contact these companies and make them aware of our obscenity law and take any additional action needed.
At the system level, a quick solution is to box up the pornographic books that were shipped to the schools and send them back to the distributor for credit or a refund since they clearly violate state obscenity law.”