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Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill passed the Indiana Senate which would ban books from schools considered “inappropriate” to minors.

Senate Bill 12 requires each school corporation or charter school to publish a list of each book available in their library online and in a physical copy for parents or guardians of students.

If a parent thinks any book is inappropriate, they can submit a complaint. An appeals committee made of the school principle, a parent/guardian, and a librarian at the school will then decide if the complaint is valid. Then, they can either remove the book entirely, move it to an age-appropriate section of the library, or deny the complaint.

Another section of the bill amends a prosecution defense to obscenity that can protect schools if students see inappropriate materials for a legitimate educational purpose.

Senate Bill 12 removes schools from having that defense, but gives it to colleges and universities. However, it limits the scope to only legitimate scientific purposes instead of educational.

State senators took to the stage to testify Tuesday, arguing over what can be considered inappropriate.

Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin argued that it protects students from obscene materials in schools.

“You can take something that would be illegal to hand to a child on the street,” Sen. Baldwin said, “…But if I was in a school building, or in a library, it would be illegal. And that’s what this bill is trying to do, it’s trying to correct that loophole. Not that we’re indicting libraries or coming after libraries in any shape or form.”

But two Democrats spoke that the language is vague. Who gets to decide what is and what isn’t appropriate?

“We’re talking about inappropriate material. Nobody in this chamber is probably going to agree as to the specific line for which inappropriate is,” said Sen. Rodney Pol.

He worries that the law could be abused, “You’re going to have folks that go on crusades – community to community – saying, ‘Hey, we got this book banned over here. We want you to pull it off the shelves over here.'”

Then Sen. Andrea Hunley raised the issue to a specific book that covers the transatlantic slave trade, but also contains an illustration of partial nudity and a forced kiss.

“I would argue about taking it in full context. I think that if we look at this book as a whole, it has value. But again, a parent may not see it that way. A parent may see this as truly obscene.”

Senate bill 12 was passed with a vote of 37 to 12. It now moves to the Indiana House to be voted on.