Georgia Senate Bill 226, known as the “library censorship bill” by opponents, passed in the Georgia State House by a 97-61 margin Friday afternoon. It clarifies the process by which certain books that might be perceived as harmful to minors be banned, placing the responsibility—and decision-making—for book removal on principals, not librarians. The bill provides a path for challenges on the local level to escalate to the state level, whereby the state could ban certain books from Georgia’s public schools if “certain boards” deem these books as inappropriate.
Videos From Tinybeans
The bill states that “‘harmful to minors’ means that quality of description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse, when it: Taken as a whole, predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful, or morbid interest of minors; Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors; and Is, when taken as a whole, lacking in serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.” So, let’s get this straight. They could remove Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, Morrison’s Beloved, and Thomas’ The Hate You Give from libraries attended by students who have the World Wide Web in their pockets?
The Georgia Library Media Association officially opposed the bill, noting that schools are already required to have a process to address book complaints. “I asked several times in public and private for answers to this very simple question: Why are we creating new legislation? We already have rules to deal with media procedures for what are termed offensive books,” Georgia Representative Dar’Shun Kendrick said.
While some principals might have the bandwidth to take a thoughtful approach to their new responsibilities as Chief Book Reviewer in Georgia schools, “I am worried that there are other principals who will simply bow to the pressure of a very vocal parent or group of parents and not go through a rigorous process, and we’re going to find books being banned on a much more regular basis,” said Amanda Lee, a school librarian in metro Atlanta and president-elect of the Georgia Library Media Association told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Currently, school librarians—who in most cases have a degree and in nearly all cases have been trained—largely control what resources children can access on their bookshelves and computer screens at school. By September 1, all school boards must agree upon and make public a plan for remedying parental complaints on books in their kids’ school libraries, and the process provided in Bill 226 goes something like this: parents file a written complaint, principal (or designee) responds within seven days and must decide on the suitability of the book in question within 10 days of the complaint being filed. If the parent disagrees with the decision, it goes to the school board, which would have 30 calendar days to review the appeal.
"Legislation That Would Require Principals Rather Than #Librarians to Decide Which #Books Should Be Banned From Schools Passed the #Georgia House on Friday." (via @ajc) https://t.co/lKi98HqWQO #libraries pic.twitter.com/6Y67OIoLL1— Library Journal (@LibraryJournal) March 26, 2022
Georgia isn’t the only state wrestling with how to navigate conflicts over school libraries, and those tracking the issue are concerned that books being removed are largely authored by people of color or address topics relevant to race, gender, identity, religion, or the Holocaust. Proponents cast the bill as a transparency bill that would expose the “degrading-type material” on school library shelves, as state Rep. James Burchett, R-Waycross, put it. However, opposition to the bill calls it censorship legislation aimed at books by people of color addressing empowerment of people of color, gay or transgender people and others who are oppressed.
“This bill is exactly about that, asking us to be quiet,” said Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta.