(INDIANAPOLIS) – Schools or librarians could be open to criminal charges over sexually explicit material, under a bill passed by the Senate.
Indiana’s law against “disseminating material harmful to minors” is built on language used to define obscenity, but includes exceptions for educational purposes, and for museums, schools, and libraries. Wadesille Republican Jim Tomes’ bill limits the school exemption to colleges and universities, and removes libraries and the “educational purposes” exception entirely.
On the Senate floor, Tomes brandished an unidentified book he says an outraged parent sent him, describing it as “absolutely disgusting. It’s pure, pornographic, hardcore obscenity.” He says he’s heard of sexually explicit material in at least two school districts.
The bill passed the Senate 34-15. Democrats say they’re in agreement that Penthouse and Hustler don’t belong in school. But Indianapolis Democrat Fady Qaddoura warns because the bill uses the standards which define obscenity, most books won’t meet that threshold, including those brought up by parents who complained to senators about inappropriate materials in their children’s schools.
Carmel Democrat J.D. Ford, Indiana’s only openly gay legislator, says some parents have called for excluding any books with LGBT themes. And Qaddoura argues schools have addressed complaints when they arise. He says the bill jumps straight past any administrative process to threaten teachers or librarians with felonies.
The House has already approved similar language, as part of a broader curriculum-transparency bill which includes rules on how schools can teach about racism. The House and Senate will begin reviewing each other’s bills starting next week.