POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Local Republican lawmakers push school book bans

Mar. 19—Cleveland County Republicans are pushing to either ban, shelve or place a rating system on certain books they believe are questionable.

Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, has authored two bills that address school materials.

House Bill 1811 would prohibit sensitive materials in school settings, and HB 1810 would prohibit schools from maintaining certain books or materials and allows parents to challenge the appropriateness of books in schools.

HB 1810 states: "A governing board shall include parents who are reflective of the members of the school's community when determining if an instructional material is sensitive material."

According to HB 1811, school districts would allow parents or students to challenge books available in a library. Upon review, the board of education would review the complaint and make a determination within 30 days of the complaint.

"If the board determines the school may keep the challenged material but that it shall be restricted to certain ages or grade levels, the school shall only provide the material to a student if the student's parent or legal guardian has given written permission allowing it," the bill states.

If a complainant does not like the decision, they have 10 days to appeal and must make a decision within 60 days after the following board meeting.

If a written complaint is denied by the school district, parents or legal guardians may file civil action against the school, and courts will have to side in favor of the parents if the material goes against state law.

Conley, in a conversation with The Transcript, said she isn't interested in banning books.

"You know, I am not looking to ban books. I mean, I've been accused of being a book banner," she said. "That's not what I'm looking to do. I want to protect children who are not mature enough to handle certain content."

Conley said books ought to be treated like movies, with a rating system based on age appropriateness.

"I mean, we have limitations on movies they can see in elementary schools," she said. "Teachers in kindergarten through sixth grade are not allowed to show movies that are not G-rated. Well, then we shouldn't have books that are not G-rated in the libraries in elementary school either."

Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, said bills banning books happen every year, but they aren't typically successful. Currently, both of Conley's bills are still in committee.

"There are always quite a few bills authored each year by extremely conservative members of the legislature, this year is no different," he said.

He also mentioned Senate Bill 397, authored by Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, which would limit reading materials in school districts and libraries.

"This isn't a problem which needs to be legislated in any way," Rosecrants said. "Guardrails and procedures already exist to prevent truly pornographic material in public libraries and public school libraries and systems are already in place for challenging and removing books."

Rosecrants said bills that address inappropriate material don't reflect reality.

"This is yet again just another example of fear mongering, and it's irresponsible for many of our elected leaders to gaslight and sensationalize problems that either don't exist or that can be remedied with existing systems," he said.