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The Texas Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would significantly change the processes and procedures Texas’ school libraries have to follow.
Senate Bill 13, from Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, would let parents receive notice each time their children obtain school library materials, prohibit the acquisition or retention of “harmful” and indecent materials, and create local councils to help districts ensure “community values are reflected in each school library catalog in the district.” Members of the upper chamber approved the bill with a 18-12 vote. It now heads to the House.
Under the bill, school boards would have to approve all new library materials and publicly release lists of proposed library purchases 30 days ahead of acquiring new materials. Exceptions to that would include replacing damaged copies or buying additional copies of existing materials.
The bill is among many that target school libraries, proposals that mark the latest front in an ongoing battle about what information schools can provide to children. On the Senate floor, Paxton said parents had provided examples of several books that contained explicit material.
"I cannot unsee what I saw," Paxton said. "More importantly, a child cannot unsee sexually explicit materials and this certainly shouldn't happen for any reason in a school library of all places. Senate Bill 13 is a common sense bill to protect children from sexually explicit materials."
A previous version of the bill would have removed the ability of teachers or librarians to defend themselves against criminal charges of selling, distributing or displaying harmful material to a minor by arguing that contested material has educational value. The version of the bill that received initial approval Thursday leaves that existing affirmative defense intact.
Opponents of the measure, however, say the bill’s language is vague and broad. School librarians have raised concerns about some of the logistical obstacles it would create, such as the 30-day waiting period before ordering books — slowing down a process that can already take months and will leave schools vulnerable to not meeting recommended collection standards for their student bodies.
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