An Oklahoma state senator is pushing for two bills that would give parents the power to remove any book in a public school library they find objectionable. Meaning any book mentioning sex or the “study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity,“ or books “that are of a sexual nature.”
Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, who is championing Senate Bill 1142, says it addresses the “indoctrination in Oklahoma schools.”
“Our education system is not the place to teach moral lessons that should instead be left up to parents and families. Unfortunately, however, more and more schools are trying to indoctrinate students by exposing them to gender, sexual and racial identity curriculums and courses. My bills will ensure these types of lessons stay at home and out of the classroom,” Standridge said in a statement.
Standridge seems to have his ire particularly focused on books in the LGBTQ+ genre. Some titles include: Trans Teen Survival Guide, Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities, A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, and The Art of Drag.
SB-1142 will give any parent the right to have a book removed within 30 days if they find it offensive. If a librarian chooses not to remove the book, they can be fired and will be unable to work for any public school for two years, McAlester News-Capital reports. Parents can also receive “monetary damages including a minimum of $10,000 per day” from school districts refusing to remove the book as demanded.
Standridge claims that families have been denouncing the sexual content of books on school library book shelves for years.
“I just think that those [books] are overly sexualized,” Standridge told the McAlester News-Capital. “I think parents and grandparents, guardians should have a say on whether their kids are exposed to those books.” He added: “At Barnes and Noble there is a section dedicated to those sexual lifestyles but that is in another part of the bookstore.”
Critics of SB-1142 say it’s simply unconstitutional and worry that banning books that uplift and support the LGBTQ+ community could have a dangerous and potentially deadly outcome.
“Studies have shown that having safe, affirming adults and peers in their life can actually reduce suicide rates among 2SLGBTQ+ students,” Laura Lang, CEO of Thrive OKC, tells Newson6 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “If we limit the information given to them in this setting then we know that teens will just turn to peers or the internet where porn and predators are rampant for answers to their questions.”
Under the senator’s second proposed bill, Senate Bill 1141, public universities in Oklahoma would be prohibited from requiring students to enroll in courses “addressing any form of gender, sexual, or racial diversity, equality, or inclusion curriculum,” which fall outside of the requirements for their major.
“We are blessed in America that every citizen has access to free public education, and then has the freedom to pursue a higher education if they choose. The purpose of our common education system is to teach students about math, history, science and other core areas of learning—all of which are further expanded on in college as students pursue their fields of interest,” Standridge said in a statement.
According to the American Library Associations (ALA), the calls for book-banning have been unparalleled of late. Parents across the nation have set their targets on books they allege contain “sexually explicit” content from authors such as Toni Morrison and Alison Bechdel.
These are parents like Virginia Beach at-large school board member Victoria Manning—aka book-banning Karen, aka nonreading pro-censorship Karen, who successfully got Gender Queer “permanently removed from shelves,” according to Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence.
“It’s a volume of challenges I’ve never seen in my time at the ALA – the last 20 years. We’ve never had a time when we’ve gotten four or five reports a day for days on end, sometimes as many as eight in a day,” ALA Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone tells The Guardian. “Social media is amplifying local challenges and they’re going viral, but we’ve also been observing a number of organisations activating local members to go to school board meetings and challenge books. We’re seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism.”