OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor says he is not investigating whether 51 school library books contain obscenity that violates state law, changing course a day after his office said he was going to review the books.

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office confirmed on Wednesday that 51 school library books, including several classic works of literature, would be reviewed to determine if they violate the state’s obscenity law. O’Connor’s staff said he was conducting the review after receiving complaints about the books.

“The books in question are from all different counties and are being reviewed to determine if they violate the state’s obscenity law. We do not have a timeline for when the review will be complete,” an Attorney General’s Office spokesperson said in a statement to KFOR on Wednesday.

The list included classic books, including Of Mice and Men, Lord of the Flies and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

image of John O'Connor
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor

However, O’Connor released a statement on Thursday saying his office is not conducting an investigation into the books. The full statement is as follows:

“I received complaints from several parents about books in public school libraries which the parents found obscene. I will always listen to the complaints of Oklahomans. I recommended that they present their objections to the school boards. I also recommended that they talk with the legislature regarding how Oklahoma law defines ‘obscenity.’

Our office is not conducting an investigation in this matter at this time. I understand that there is proposed legislation that has been introduced in this new session to address these parents’ concerns.

I respect the role and responsibility of parents in the education and social development of their children and urge the school boards to consider the complaints of these parents and work with them in regard to the materials available in the school libraries.”

Attorney General John O’Connor

KFOR asked the AG’s office for clarification on the actions O’Connor will be taking regarding the books. Rachel Roberts, Director of Communications, said they will be evaluating and monitoring the situation. Her statement to KFOR is as follows:

“Earlier this week, our office expressed that concerned parents had contacted our office regarding multiple school books they believed violated state obscenity laws and we said we would look into the matter. Today’s comment was simply to state that the legislature and local school boards also have an important and appropriate role to play in addressing parents’ concerns. We are continuing to evaluate and monitor the situation and if it appears that laws have been broken, my office will step in and protect Oklahomans.”

The Frontier first reported that O’Connor’s plan to review the books.

The news was met with criticism from educators.

“When you start burning books and banning books, that can be a problem for our society and for our kids,” Nancy Yaffe, a reading and English teacher for Moore Public Schools, said to KFOR on Wednesday.

Cherity Pennington, president of the Oklahoma Library Association, said her office is extremely careful when selecting which books go into libraries.

“We are very very careful about what we put in our libraries,” Cherity Pennington, president of the Oklahoma Library Association, said. “I would love for our Attorney General O’Connor to contact Oklahoma Library Association to have a conversation with us about his concerns.”

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who is running for governor, blasted the previously planned review, saying local school boards are empowered to review library books. She issued the following statement Wednesday:

“Parents should have a say in the books that their children have access to. Local school boards are required to have a process in place to review books in school libraries, and state rules clearly place that responsibility in the hands of local school boards. Before AG O’Connor begins arresting teachers and librarians, we hope he would share the complaints he’s received over the last year with OSDE.”

Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent

Here is the full list of the books that were to be reviewed: