CROWN POINT, IN – A new education bill has caused a stir in Indiana, as it includes guidelines for school libraries that classify literature deemed “harmful to minors” under the same category as obscene materials already banned.
The bill, HB 1447, has passed both the House and the Senate, and is awaiting the signature of Governor Eric Holcomb.
Initially created to regulate third-party vendors for analysis, evaluations, or surveys in schools, the bill has sparked controversy due to its new provision on school libraries. The authors of the bill, Rep. Donna Schaibley (R-Carmel), Rep. Julie McGuire (R-Indianapolis), and Rep. Becky Cash (R-Zionsville), and sponsors, Sen. Stacey Donato (R-Logansport) and Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), have stated that the guidelines aim to protect minors from inappropriate materials.
The bill defines materials as “harmful to minors” if they are considered “morally, sexually, or intellectually” offensive to a reasonable person.
Opponents of the bill argue that the new law will put undue pressure on librarians to remove books with controversial content, such as LGBTQ literature, out of fear of facing felony charges. Under the proposed new law, librarians who violate could be charged with a Level 6 felony and face up to two and a half years of jail time.
HB 1447 passed the House by a vote of 69-28 and the Senate by 39-10, making Indiana the latest state to seek to regulate what children can access in school libraries. The bill has drawn attention and sparked debate across the country about censorship and academic freedom.
Illinois passed a bill earlier this Spring that prohibits libraries from banning books or materials due to partisan or doctrinal pressure. The bill was proposed in response to national controversies, including one in Illinois, where school districts and public libraries faced pressure to remove certain materials. The lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, argued that book banning is similar to the actions of repressive regimes of the past and should not be accepted in America today.