Another viewpoint: A sneaky move to ban books

The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin

State Rep. Ryan Dvorak, a Democrat from South Bend, called it a “sneaky move.”

He was talking about a conference committee’s action during a closed-door meeting late in the session to amend House Bill 1447 to include provisions that would make it easier for parents and community members to challenge school library materials they deemed to be “obscene” or “harmful to minors.”

The measure approved overwhelmingly by both the House and Senate would require school libraries to publicly post lists of books in their collections, and it would establish a formal grievance process for parents and community members to follow in filing an objection.

“I really think this is kind of an example of the wrong way we want to do this policy,” Dvorak said during a House Rules Committee hearing. “If you want to bring this bill before the House and let us work on it, that’s one thing. But shoving this through the backdoor sends an incredibly bad message to the public that’s really, legitimately concerned about a lot of aspects of this.”

Rep. Martin Carbaugh, a Republican from Fort Wayne, objected to Dvorak’s characterization. He noted that versions of the bill’s language had been the subject of more than eight committee hearings.

“I can appreciate the process questions on this … but I take a little exception with the ‘sneak’ comment because this process is pretty open,” he said. “This is being streamed live.”

The law would require school boards to review challenges at their next public meeting, and they would be required to set up an appeals process in the event a challenge was rejected.

Rep. Matt Lehman, a Republican from Berne, said the debate was not about banning ideas.

“It’s about one thing,” he said, “and that is the indecency and the obscenity that we already defined in Indiana code, and we say if that is what’s entering into the classroom, we need to have more transparency.”

Actually, the bill does more than that. It removes “educational purposes” as a defense for school officials accused of providing “harmful material” to underage students. The charge is a felony.

Should a school principal really have to risk a jail term for refusing to remove a book from the school library?

During the debate, Rep. Vernon Smith, a Democrat from Gary, said policing a child’s reading materials ought to be the job of that child’s parents.

“Be a good parent,” he said. “Protect your child, but don’t try to determine how to raise another child in another household.”

That is really at the heart of this discussion. Parents should have every right to decide what their own children are allowed to read.

What they should not be allowed to do is to take a book from the hands of someone else’s child.

That’s what this bill does. Gov. Eric Holcomb never should have signed it. The courts should overturn it.