INDIANAPOLIS – As Indiana lawmakers reach the final days of session, Republicans revived and passed a bill Thursday that would open school librarians to criminal prosecution.
Under House Bill 1447, that could happen if they provide books or other materials deemed “harmful” to children. That includes items that contain sexually explicit content that lack artistic, political or scientific value.
The bill removes educational purposes as a possible defense from prosecution.
The legislation appeared in Senate Bill 12 earlier this session. The bill passed in the Senate with GOP support. In the House, a committee added the proposal to a different bill and held a hearing but not a vote.
On Thursday, the language was inserted into House Bill 1447 and received final approval in the legislature roughly five hours later.
“There’s people that are worried about what their children, as we all are, see in schools,” State Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) said on the Senate floor. Tomes has pushed for the legislation for several years.
The bill also sets up a process for parents to ask school boards to review certain materials.
It passed in both the House and Senate, mostly along party lines. Democrats criticized the move.
“We don’t need to have our nose in everything,” said State Rep. Renee Pack (D-Indianapolis).
Pack said she’s concerned books with LGBTQ characters will be pulled from school libraries. During the House debate on the bill, she shared the story of a novel written by her daughter that was classified as obscene and placed under review by the Oklahoma attorney general.
“Books like hers show young people no, you are you,” Pack said. “You are you. That’s what these books can do for youngsters.”
House Majority Leader Matt Lehman (R-Berne) pushed back on those concerns.
“It’s not about what other states are banning,” Lehman said. “It’s about one thing. One thing. And that is the indecency and the obscenity that we already define in the Indiana code and we say if that is what’s entering into the classroom, we need to have more transparency.”
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.
We reached out to the lawmakers in the House and Senate who led the push to bring back this legislation. They declined our requests for interviews.