Tennessee gov, GOP push more scrutiny of school libraries

Feb 4, 2022, 12:35 PM | Updated: 1:06 pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Less than a week after a local Tennessee school board attracted national attention for banning a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, Gov. Bill Lee went public with a push for more scrutiny of school libraries so students consume “age appropriate” content.

“We are proposing a new law that will ensure parents know what materials are available to students in their libraries,” Lee said during his annual address to the Republican-controlled Legislature. “This law will also create greater accountability at the local level so parents are empowered to make sure content is age-appropriate.”

The Republican’s remarks echo sentiments of conservative officials across the country who are increasingly attempting to limit the exposure of children to certain books, particularly those that touch on structural racism and LGBTQ issues.

Most recently, Republican governors in South Carolina and Texas called on superintendents to perform a systemic review of “inappropriate” materials in their states’ schools.

Defining what’s inappropriate is where things get complicated. Opponents say the efforts are political and smack of an effort to intimidate certain communities, with the careful assessment of content best left to professional educators and librarians.

In Tennessee, the debate has simmered for months as the state’s education agency finalizes how schools should enforce a law banning the teaching of certain concepts of race and racism known as critical race theory — an academic framework about systemic racism that has become a catchall phrase for teaching about race in U.S. history.

That debate only became more inflamed when the McMinn County School Board decided last week to remove “Maus” from its curriculum because of “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman, according to minutes from a board meeting. The illustration is actually a cartoon mouse, and the effort backfired in one sense, sending sales of the book soaring three decades after it won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

At a separate school board in the wealthy area of Williamson County, just south of Nashville, a conservative nonprofit group called Moms for Liberty has gained attention criticizing a range of materials that they say shouldn’t be in schools.

And in January, country singer John Rich tweeted to his large following that he had met with the governor and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and was promised legislation would be introduced to “deal with ‘literature’ that our kids are being exposed to containing obscene and pornographic content.”

Several bills have already been filed this legislative session targeting school libraries including a proposal to remove any “obscene materials or materials harmful to minors” from public school libraries. Librarians across the state say such restrictions are already in place, countering that the latest trend aims to censor certain topics and books.

“This is an effort to intimidate us to not buy controversial books and they’re trying to intimidate us to not speak out about these laws,” said Bryan Jones with the Tennessee Library Association. “Much like the critical race theory debate, this bill obscures the truth. There’s no pornography in school libraries.”

Meanwhile, a separate bill would ban schools from using textbooks or materials that “promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles.” The bill applies not only to curriculum but also materials that could be found in a school library. Last year, lawmakers approved legislation that forced school districts to alert parents of any instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity and let them opt their student out.

Lee, who is running for reelection this year, has filed a separate bill that would require school libraries to post their contents online and regularly review their policies to make sure the materials are “age-appropriate” and “suitable” for the children accessing them.

The bill was filed Monday, but with the governor’s backing, it’s likely to pass in the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

Librarians counter that many of these procedures already exist and have stressed the need for better resources and possibly adding a state library coordinator to promote literacy and education across the state.

“School library catalogs are already accessible online and library collection development procedures are posted online, and reconsideration procedures exist to address concerns of parents,” Lindsey Kimery, library services coordinator at Metro Nashville Public Schools, told lawmakers earlier this week.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Doja Cat performs at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Sunday, ...
Associated Press

BET Awards return Sunday with Doja Cat as leading nominee

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The BET Awards return Sunday with a live show that could see Doja Cat, Drake and Ari Lennox snag some trophies. Doja Cat enters the show as the leading nominee with six. The chart-topping performer is up for best female R&B-pop artist, best female hip-hop artist, album of the year for […]
22 hours ago
U.S. President Joe Biden, right, waves as he walks past Bavarian mountain riflemen and traditional ...
Associated Press

Biden, G-7 leaders huddle on energy, inflation, Ukraine war

ELMAU, Germany (AP) — President Joe Biden and his Group of Seven allies will huddle Sunday on strategies to secure energy supplies and tackle inflation, aiming to keep the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from splintering the global coalition working to punish Moscow. Biden arrived in Germany’s picturesque Bavarian alps early Sunday morning for […]
22 hours ago
A staff member works at the Yuet Tung China Works, Hong Kong's porcelain factory, in Hong Kong, Wed...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Hong Kong’s last hand-painted porcelain factory

HONG KONG (AP) — Step into Yuet Tung China Works, Hong Kong’s last remaining hand-painted porcelain factory, and you find yourself surrounded by stacks of dinnerware, each piece painstakingly decorated by hand with vibrant motifs of flowers, fruits and animals. Joseph Tso, the third-generation owner of the factory, and his small team are among the […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: June 26, first Harry Potter book published

Today in History Today is Sunday, June 26, the 177th day of 2022. There are 188 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On June 26, 1945, the charter of the United Nations was signed by 50 countries in San Francisco. On this date: In 1917, the first troops of the American Expeditionary […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Rep. Mary Miller calls Roe decision ‘victory for white life’

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, speaking at a rally Saturday night with former President Donald Trump, called the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade a “victory for white life.” Miller’s spokesman said the Illinois Republican had intended to say the decision was a victory for a “right to life.” […]
22 hours ago
FILE - This Sept. 20, 2017, file photo shows a sign at the Disney store on the Champs Elysees Avenu...
Associated Press

Abortion ruling thrusts companies into divisive arena

The Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s constitutional protections for abortion has catapulted businesses of all types into the most divisive corner of politics. Some companies that stayed silent last month — when a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico — spoke up for the first time Friday, including The […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Tennessee gov, GOP push more scrutiny of school libraries