What to know about a new Arizona law and how it could ban books in school libraries

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story misstated the date the law was passed and whether proposed amendments were passed. In addition, a pull quote was misattributed.

More than a dozen bills focused on K-12 education were approved by the Arizona Legislature this year.

One of those bills was a ban on the use or reference of sexually explicit material without parental consent in Arizona schools. House Bill 2495, sponsored by Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, was signed into law and effective as of Sept. 24.

The Arizona Republic broke down what you need to know about the most significant education laws from this year's legislative session.

Here’s what you need to know about the book ban:

When does the book ban law come into effect? What does HB 2495 change?

House Bill 2495 was signed into law in July and is in effect.

The law requires schools to get parental approval to teach books or other material that make references to sex.

Hoffman said in March his motivation for the law is rooted in protecting children, not banning books.

“We need them learning math, reading, writing and other incredibly important educational materials that will help prepare them for a vibrant and prosperous future, not worrying about sexually explicit material," he said in a Senate Education Committee meeting.

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Marisol Garcia, a teacher and president of the Arizona Education Association, says the law's burden adds to an already long list of responsibilities for teachers, since the law does not include added funding to fulfill the mandate.

"The levels and levels of bureaucracy that is coming from a party of less bureaucracy, just seems very ironic, especially in Arizona," Garcia said.

She and her colleagues already involve the community in the education of youth.

"We always want schools where parents are involved. We want parents coming to school board meetings or parents at PTA meetings," Garcia said. "Parents have always had access to what we teach our curriculum. We have curriculum nights. We invite them. I've always had parents come to my classroom and be part of it."

That involvement makes this law unnecessary, Garcia said. She is afraid it will drive teachers to leave the state, or even the profession.

Hoffman's Republican colleagues proposed amendments to the bill in May, making those exceptions for certain text to be taught without parental sign-off if the books are considered one of the following: "classical literature," "early American literature" or a book required to obtain college credit.

At the May Senate floor session, House Education Chair Michelle Udall introduced one of the amendments.

"No one here is advocating for porn in classrooms, we are advocating for the freedom to read and question," she said in a prior February session.

Those amendments were not passed.

What books will be banned?

We don't know that, yet.

The original bill's language does not list any specific titles, and is open and vague. School districts will interpret and act on this new set of rules.

However, during a March Senate Education Committee meeting, Hoffman cited the availability of materials that had drawings of male and female organs and "hundreds of reference materials provided to Arizona children directing them to resources like, and I'm quoting, dry humping saves lives, it's OK to have sex with a lot of people, how to view porn and other equally concerning topics."

Some districts, such as Paradise Valley Unified School District, have already had run-ins with which books to include in lessons. A principal at a high school was placed on leave due to complaints over a book, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed," that was assigned to an Advanced Placement English class.

This caused the district to make a statement regarding the book review process and create a list of approved literature.

Other districts will now have to come up with solutions rather quickly.

Garcia said there is a scramble to figure out whether teacher's lesson plans will need to change come Monday. This has educators asking what they can teach.

Gaelle Esposito is a lobbyist working on education policy. They agree with Garcia and see these newly passed rules to the public education system as the product of being in an election year. Esposito sympathizes with the rapidly changing environment teachers find themselves in.

"I do not fault the districts, they are doing what they can," Esposito said. "The problem here lies squarely on the shoulders of folks like Jake Hoffman, who have decided to play politics to try to score points to look like they're doing something when all they are doing is denying students the ability to have a rigorous education and putting educators and librarians in precarious positions for their own personal gain."

Who is Jake Hoffman?

Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, speaks during debate of HB 2898, a K-12 education bill, during the House Appropriations Committee hearing at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on May 25, 2021.
Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, speaks during debate of HB 2898, a K-12 education bill, during the House Appropriations Committee hearing at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on May 25, 2021.

Hoffman is a state representative who serves the 12th district, which includes Gilbert and Queen Creek, and leans heavily Republican.

Hoffman started a company called 1Ten Management in June 2021, corporate filings show. Previously, he had a company called Rally Forge.

He once served on the Queen Creek Town Council and in 2020, when he ran Rally Forge, his Twitter and Facebook accounts were suspended and banned.

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Hoffman runs several political production and consulting companies, and his firms were paid more than $2 million to produce pro-Lake and anti-Taylor Robson ads.

Hoffman was also among Republicans who falsely declared themselves Arizona’s presidential electors and cast votes for Trump, sending documents memorializing the action to the U.S. Senate and the National Archives.

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Hoffman has not responded for comment on the law from The Republic.

Have a question you need answered? Reach the reporter at rromeroruiz@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @raphaeldelag.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona school book bans: What to know about House Bill 2495