A bill passed by the Missouri state legislature bans the provision of “explicit sexual material” to college students. If such material is found, violators could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
Senate Bill 775, which goes into effect August 28, specifically targets books, magazines, videos, or online content that visually depict sexual material, acts, or genitalia in public and private schools. It does not apply to literary, written content.
Republican Sen. Rick Brattin (Cass County), who drafted the amendment, said KSDK of several books that he found alarming, including Fun Home: A tragicomic family story by Alison Bechdel, dead end by Jason Myers; and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe.
“These novels have graphic, pornographic material of sexual activity, and that’s where that language really shows up,” Brattin said.
When asked who would be held responsible for the explicit material, Brattin told KSDK, “Every single person in the school district is potentially liable for exposing kids to this stuff. It’ll be school boards, it’ll be teachers, everyone has to comb their way through to make sure they’re not showing this to kids.
Tom Bastian, a spokesman for the Missouri ACLU, slammed the law St. Louis mail deliveryand argues that it narrowly defines “explicit sexual material” and libraries already “adhere to nationally-established selection criteria for choosing appropriate materials for their libraries.”
Left Bank Books owner Kris Kleindienst called it a “slippery slope” for KSDK and said lawmakers used the wording to ban books by LGBTQ authors and authors of color.
The new law provides an exception for “works of art which, taken as a whole, have serious artistic importance, or works of anthropological importance, or materials used in science courses, including but not limited to materials used in biology, anatomy and physiology.” become , and sex education classes.”
It’s already beginning to cause confusion among librarians, some of whom are beginning to remove books.
In a statement on the decision The Missouri Association of School Librarians said it “stands with all school librarians.”
“We recognize the immense impact of a challenge and will support our librarians to uphold freedom of thought,” the association said.
It suggested that school districts should implement clear guidelines to prepare for book challenges.
In the event that a book is challenged, the Association provides resources to librarians:
- The Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Missouri Library Association may draft a letter to be sent to the school district administration and/or board of education.
- The American Library Association’s Office of Freedom of Thought can assist with book challenges, including finding reviews to support disputed material.
- The Board of Directors of the Missouri Association of School Librarians may, at the request of the school librarian, draft a letter in support of the school librarian and the disputed material.