Utah House OKs ‘sensitive materials’ bill governing removal of books from school libraries

Jan 31, 2024, 7:03 AM | Updated: 12:04 pm

Sensitive materials bill...

HB29, the "sensitive materials" bill, passed the House in a 51-16 vote on Tuesday. It is sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, pictured in the House chamber at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Feb. 28, 2023. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House has approved legislation that would potentially make it quicker to pull books with sensitive materials, like sexual content, from school library shelves.

HB29, which passed the House in a 51-16 vote on Tuesday, would also allow for the removal of challenged books from schools statewide if officials in three school districts decide the material violates state law and should be removed from their schools. The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“It is time that we get behind protecting children in our schools, that it is a place of safety and decency for all children,” said Rep Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, the bill’s sponsor.

He said HB29 aims to clarify HB374, the law approved by lawmakers in 2022 that creates guidelines for the removal of books and other material from schools with sexually explicit passages and content. What’s more, its provisions requiring the removal of books from all school libraries in certain circumstances, he argues, creates uniformity in judging the appropriateness of books in schools.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, spoke in opposition to the bill, as she did when the measure went before the House Education Committee on Jan. 23. She worries the measure allows for a tiny minority to dictate the removal of books from school libraries statewide, thereby removing control from local officials.

“With this bill, just a couple of individuals can take away the rights of parents statewide to make choices that best fit their children’s needs. This is the antithesis of local control,” she said. Parents, she continued, “can and should be the ones that monitor their kids’ reading, not the government.”

The issue has been a thorny one as more and more books in school libraries across the state have faced challenges since the passage of HB374. The Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Quran faced challenges in Davis School District, seemingly from critics who thought HB374 went too far, though they were all ultimately retained. Ivory said the new measure stems from requests from some school officials for more clarity in the process of reviewing and removing books.

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Utah House OKs ‘sensitive materials’ bill governing removal of books from school libraries