Chris Lieberman, FISM News
State lawmakers in Oklahoma have put forward a new bill that would give parents more control over the books offered in public schools.
Senate Bill 1142, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Rob Standridge, aims to curtail sexually explicit books in classrooms and school libraries across the state. The bill says, “No public school district, public charter school, or public-school library shall maintain in its inventory or promote books that make as their primary subject the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent or legal guardian would want to know of or approve of prior to their child being exposed to it.”
Under the new bill, schools must remove all copies of a book from the school within 30 days if a parent submits a written request for the book’s removal due to sexually explicit content. Employees who fail to comply with a request will be fired from the school and not be permitted to return for two years. Parents are also entitled to $10,000 in damages per day while the book is still in the library after the 30 days are up.
Standridge expressed concern over some of the books currently available in public schools, including Trans Teen Survival Guide, A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities, A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, and The Art of Drag.
“I just think that those are overly sexualized,” Standridge told McAlester News-Capital. “I think parents and grandparents, guardians should have a say on whether their kids are exposed to those books. If they want them, they can take [their children] to their local library.”
State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D) spoke out against the bill, pointing out that school boards already have authority to moderate content in school libraries. “I think it’s just trying to feed into the fearmongering that it looks like the GOP really is going for here,” he told the News-Capital. “My big thing, and it’s strange that a Democrat should be saying this, is shouldn’t we just leave these decisions to local [school] boards? It looks to me like this is some type of government overreach, massive when it comes from the party of smaller government. It blows me away.”
Educational issues, which have long served as a political afterthought, have in recent months become a major topic of public discourse, with politicians and parents alike clashing over issues such as mask and vaccine mandates, Critical Race Theory, and LGBTQ material.
Supporters of laws like the one proposed in Oklahoma argue that parents are the primary stakeholders in their child’s education and should therefore have a say in what is taught in the classroom. Many Christians have cited verses such as Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Proverbs 22:6, and Ephesians 6:4 in support of this position, believing that God has given parents the primary responsibility in raising their children. Opponents say that professional educators are better equipped than parents to determine what children should be taught.