OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) is considering new proposals for how Oklahoma schools can control library content. On Friday, members of the State Board of Education heard from concerned parents and even students about their thoughts.
If the rule is passed through the legislature, it would ban materials that “appeal to prurient interest in sex,” in both public and school libraries. Proponents say it would prohibit those libraries from making pornographic materials or sexualized content available to minors.
Oklahoma school districts would be required to provide a list of books and other materials in libraries every year to the OSDE.
At Friday’s public hearing, the community voiced their concerns – some for and some against the new proposed rules that would limit certain school library content.
Some opponents of the new proposed rules argued banning or restricting books for students will limit students from being able to think critically.
“Without the books that we consume, you are going to see a steady decline… How many of these marginalized groups are going to be unequally represented, even more so before we decide to put our foot down and say, ‘no, we’re not doing that anymore,’” said Savannah Wallace, against proposed rules.
Those in favor of the rules said it should be up to the parents to decide if their child should be exposed to such material, and only out of school.
“You wouldn’t want your kids to go to an R-rated movie without your approval, even without your attendance… So, why would children have access to these books in their school library without having a parent present and giving them that option,” said Mandy Bergerson, in favor of proposed rules.
One Midwest City High School student was at the public hearing on her Spring Break. She told KFOR the rules target LGBTQ students seeking to understand their sexuality.
“The books teach about homosexuality, and they create a space, a safe space for homosexual students and any other students of the LGBTQ plus community to have representation. To see somebody who’s like them and having that representation available to you is a really big impact on your personality,” said Miya Bolton, against proposed rules.
Oklahoma mom, Mandy Bergerson, was at the public hearing Friday said she’s there to protect Oklahoma children.
“There are books that don’t have to include this type of material that still can educate people in understanding other cultures and other understandings and perspectives and worldviews… These books are graphic and not just verbally graphic in the reading, but actually photographically pornographic. That’s concerning because it touches on a point in a child’s brain that actually introduces them to things prematurely,” said Bergerson.
The materials in school libraries was a big topic on the campaign trail for State Superintendent of Education, Ryan Walters. However, he was not at the public comments hearing.
The public comments will be reviewed by the Oklahoma State Board of Education before voting on the proposals, which will move to the Legislature and Governor if adopted.
Click here for more information on the OSDE’s current rules. You can also find the rule impact statement online.