A new legislative proposal would give Oklahoma parents the right to force the removal of certain books from public school libraries and award them at least $10,000 if the schools do not comply.
Sponsored by Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, Senate Bill 1142 would permit parents to make written objections to any books that “make as their primary subject the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity.”
The legislation says objections could also be made to “books that are of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent or legal guardian would want to know of or approve of prior to their child being exposed to it.”
If a parent or legal guardian objects to a book in the school library, the school must remove it within 30 days. If it is not, the librarian must be fired and will not be permitted to work at any public school for two years, according to the legislation. Parents would also be allowed to seek a minimum of $10,000 in monetary damages if the book is not removed.
“I just think that those are overly sexualized,” Standridge told McAlester News-Capital this week. “I think parents and grandparents, guardians should have a say on whether their kids are exposed to those books. If they want them, they can take (their children) to their local library.”
Strandridge predicted a series of court battles ahead if the legislation becomes law.
“My guess is the schools won’t comply and the parents will have to seek injunctive relief. That will be up to the trier of fact,” he said. “They may well disagree with the parent and say reasonable parents would want their children to be exposed to transgender, queer and other sexually related books. I would doubt that.”
Democratic State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants described the bill as “asinine” and accused Standridge of “fearmongering.”
“My big thing, and it’s strange that a Democrat should be saying this, is shouldn’t we just leave these decisions to local (school) boards?” Rosecrants told the News-Capital. “It looks to me like this is some type of government overreach, massive when it comes from the party of smaller government. It blows me away.”
The presence of books with sexual themes in school curricula has come under increased scrutiny in recent months.
During Virginia’s gubernatorial election campaign this past fall, Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe debated whether Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved” should be taught in schools after McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have allowed kids to opt out of reading sexually explicit material.
“Beloved,” written in 1987, features graphic scenes of bestiality, sex, violence and infanticide. It has been assigned to high school juniors and seniors in some advanced placement literature classes.
In 2016, the Virginia legislature passed the so-called “Beloved bill” on a bipartisan basis, only for McAuliffe, then the commonwealth’s governor, to veto it.