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California Bill Restricting Kids’ Access to Books with Sexual Content Dies in Senate Committee

California Bill Restricting Kids’ Access to Books with Sexual Content Dies in Senate Committee

Donated LGBTQ+ books are displayed in the library at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

4/19/2024

Updated: 4/19/2024

California lawmakers killed a bill April 17 that would have required school districts to restrict books with “harmful” sexual content from elementary and middle school classrooms and libraries.
Senate Bill 1435, introduced by Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh in February, would have required school boards to restrict books with content considered harmful under California Penal Code 313 from being accessed by children below eighth grade.
The penal code describes “harmful matter” as content that “depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct and which, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
The bill failed in the Senate Education Committee as members voted 3-2, with two abstentions, against advancing it.
During the hearing, Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas said she opposed the bill because she does not “need the state’s guidance to tell me how I feel about what my children are doing.”
However, Ms. Ochoa Bogh said she introduced the bill to protect the innocence of children.
“[Senate Bill] 1435 ultimately seeks to protect our children from accessing content in school libraries that our state considers too sexually explicit to be distributed to minors in public, and material that our own federal government considers too obscene for adults to hear or view on radio and television,” she stated in an analysis of the bill.
She also acknowledged concerns of various groups of parents, who often read aloud children’s books they deem inappropriate at district board meetings.
“When these sexually explicit books are presented during a school board meeting to be considered for removal, the materials are sometimes censored or unable to be read aloud for the safety of the viewing audience due to these existing federal regulations,” she said. “Yet, these books can be found in California school libraries, available for check-out by children without their parents [or guardians] ever knowing.”
The bill’s failure comes as some state lawmakers have introduced legislation to curb book bans.
Assembly Bill 1825, also known as the California Freedom to Read Act, would stop libraries from excluding books based on “the topic, views, ideas, or opinions contained in the materials,” and “from banning materials that may include sexual content, unless that content qualifies as obscene under United States Supreme Court precedent,” according to an April 11 press release from Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi.
It passed the Assembly’s Education Committee April 10 and will go before the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee for a hearing in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, at the local level, groups of concerned parents and community members are fighting to remove so-called “age-inappropriate” books from the childrens’ and teens’ section in their cities’ libraries.
Newport Beach’s library board voted to move a controversial book from the children’s to the teen section of all city libraries at an April 15 meeting.
Concerned about several books, some residents and parents began requesting the board move them last summer.
In Huntington Beach, residents organized a pop-up event April 16 to raise awareness of what they say are “inappropriate” books in the children’s section of that city’s libraries.
And in October, the Huntington Beach City Council voted to approve a resolution to create a panel of community members with oversight of the books in the city’s five libraries.
Under the resolution, the panel reviews books, then asks city libraries to move those with sexual content out of the children’s section and require a parent or guardian’s consent to access such materials.
However, some residents said there are still “inappropriate” books in the children’s section of the library.
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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

Author

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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