Senate Bill 226, known as the “library censorship bill”, passed in the House by a 97-61 margin Friday afternoon. The bill would pave the way for the state to ban certain books from Georgia’s public schools if certain boards deem these books as inappropriate.
These books are largely authored by people of color and addresses topics that are relevant to race, gender, identity, religion, or the Holocaust.
For example, Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”, Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”, and “The Hate U Give”, by Angie Thomas are books that could likely be pulled from school libraries under the new law.
According to the text of the bill, beginning January 1, 2023, each local board of education shall adopt a complaint resolution policy for its local school system to be used to address complaints submitted by parents or guardians alleging that material that is harmful to minors has been provided or is currently available to a student enrolled in the local school system.
Currently, trained school librarians largely control what resources children can access on their bookshelves and computer screens.
Republicans say this is the first step in allowing parents to regain control of their child’s education.
“If parents do not want young children reading some very degrading type material, then this is a parent engagement process and allows due process for those parents to be able to challenge these materials,” said House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Chairman James Burchett, R-Waycross.
Democrats say this is an attempt to erode the trust in public education to satisfy the individual views of a loud political agenda.
“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,” Representative Dar’Shun Kendrick said, D-Lithonia.
This is part of a greater conservative push to exert its power in public education, such as banning transgender children from participating in girls sports and seeking the prohibition of Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory is based on the idea that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but embedded in legal systems and policies. However, conservatives have stretched its meaning as they rail against diversity initiatives and progressive ideas.
“I can’t read before Georgians the language our high school kids are being exposed to in most every high school in metro Atlanta can’t be read from this well,” said Ed Seltzer, R-Acworth. “I would not demean this house to stand in front of Georgia in front of all you guys and read the words that every single high school kid in virtually in the metro area can read on titles inside their libraries funded by us funded by our tax dollars.”
Conservatives believe parents and the public should have access to what is read in public schools.
“I cannot tell you how many school systems emailed me with a copy of their media policy that’s in full effect right now that engages parents, teachers and other community stakeholders to do exactly what this bill is seeking to do,” Kendrick continued. “From Paulding County to Gwinnett to South Georgia, all these school systems have procedures already in place. The people that actually teach will be on the hook under this bill. Media personnel and principals are scratching their heads as to why we’re considering this and I’m scratching my head with them.”