Sen. Tomes has introduced SB 12 which is a resurrection of a provision that took a lot of heat during last year’s General Assembly concerning schools and “material harmful to minors.” The rhetoric opposing that provision — and the title to this post — was probably overblown compared to the actual text of the legislation. However, the motive for introducing this legislation also appears to be an unjustified moral panic over materials available to kids at school libraries. In the war of public opinion, it’s probably too optimistic to expect a nuanced discussion over the text of legislation and the real world need for that legislation.
The way I described the similar SB 17 from last session was as follows:
SB 17 removes protections for school librarians that currently exist with respect to material alleged to be “harmful to minors.” The public commentary on this has been a little overwrought since “material harmful to minors” is defined by IC 35-49-2-2 and basically tracks the definition of obscenity: appeals to prurient interest, patently offensive to prurient interests, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. So, the likelihood of schools having much in the way of qualifying material seems pretty small. But, by the same token, the utility of removing bars to prosecution of school librarians is nil. It’s a political move to exploit a panic among parents that naughty stuff might be in the school libraries. Probably comes from the same folks who were certain that there was Satanic ritual abuse of children in the Comet Ping Pong basement. And, now that I type it, I suppose there’s a group of people who similarly imagine that our public schools are immoral corrupters of children.