School Librarians Face Imprisonment, Thousands in Fines in States Where Laws Ban Obscene Books

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As parents and lawmakers grow concerned with the explicit books that have appeared on bookshelves in libraries across America, many are turning to book banning to keep them out of children’s hands. Although the practice of banning books in schools is not new, with the latest targeted books being those teaching the sexual acts of all members of the LGBTQ+ community, many proponents of such material are now coming out against the act of banning books.  According to the Daily Mail, legislation has been passed in several states, and being considered in several others, making librarians and teachers worried that sexual content may not be so easily distributed to children, though many have already found loopholes.

Despite previously being exempt from prosecution for making explicitly obscene material available to children, librarians are now being held accountable in many states. The Daily Mail reports that “laws in Idaho and Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma could result in fines or imprisonment, or both, for school employees and librarians. Tennessee’s law goes further than just librarians and targets schools, book publishers and vendors who sell the books to schools in the first place.” 


Additionally, “in Indiana, staffers could be slapped with a $10,000 fine or be jailed for 2-and-a-half years for giving obscene or harmful material to minors. In Oklahoma, school employees and public library staffers could face a $20,000 fine or be given a 10-year jail sentence for facilitating ‘indecent exposure to obscene material or child pornography.’ A Tennessee law threatens book publishers, distributors and sellers with six years in prison and up to $103,000 in fines.”

Many of the laws, however, make it difficult to define what suffices as obscene, but suggest that the courts should make the determination. Some books that have been at risk for banning thus far include the popular Gender Queer, This Book is Gay, and Lawn Boy. 


The response to the banning or possible banning of these materials in particular is drawing heavy criticism from some educators across the country. Some have argued that conservatives are trying to ban books because they want to “make sure the only literature students are exposed to fits into a narrow scope of what some people want the world to look like,” said teachers union president in Indiana, Keith Gambill, speaking to the Washington Post. 

Whether one agrees with the banning of these books or not, outside of a strictly constitutional perspective, it could be argued that both sides are trying to implement their world vision. While one believes obscene depictions and lessons for children are inappropriate, others are hoping that such material will become widely distributed to children, ensuring they know all there is to know about sexuality and sexual activities from the moment they hold their first book. 

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