The bill prohibits school districts from making obscene materials or materials harmful to minors available to students.
The award-winning graphic novel, Maus, about the Holocaust sits under the desk of Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). “You can pretend you’re not banning books but you absolutely are,” she said.
Maus, which was banned from the curriculum by the McMinn County School district over objections to certain images in the book began a visible push to exclude some texts from being used in school.
“They will continue to say it’s not a bill to ban books — if you are removing a book from a library in a school system you’re banning that book,” Johnson said.
Johnson is referencing the GOP supermajority’s step this week to ban books deemed “obscene.”
“Anything that is obscene or pornographic with the intent to distribute to minors that is illegally outside of K-12 will now be illegal inside of K-12,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka).
Cepicky’s bill would give greater authority to parents to remove a book and requires local school boards to make a determination on the content.
“Determine whether or not a book that is appealed by a parent is objectionable, is pornographic, is obscene, or is even grade-level appropriate and they will take action on that,” Cepicky said.
And before floor debate on the legislation began, House GOP caucus leader Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) moved to limit debate. “I make a motion to limit this debate to two minutes per member,” he said.
“Here we have a bill banning books and we’re banning — we’re putting a time limit on the discussion on that ban — you know history never looks fondly on those who ban books,” Johnson said.
Johnson, a former public school teacher, said this bill, like others, is a direct attack on public schools. “This is about the last big pile of public tax dollars being siphoned away by corporate America, hedge fund managers, venture capitalists and people who do not have the kid’s best interest at heart.”
The book would automatically be removed for 30 days if there are objections.
The bill passed the House 63 to 24. The Senate passed the companion bill out of the Education Committee.