Bill to ban certain kinds of books getting closer to becoming law in Georgia

Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 5:33 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A bill to ban certain books in schools in Georgia is in the final steps to reach Gov. Kemp’s desk.

It’s a bill that’s sweeping across the country aiming to empower parents who want to remove so-called obscene books from public schools and their libraries.

Supporters say it puts parents in charge of their children’s access. Opponents say it’s a dangerous trend that overwhelms schools. The issue of banning books has come up at schools across Metro Atlanta.

Friday, House lawmakers passed a bill allowing parents and regular citizens to request to have certain books banned from schools with the school’s response coming within a tighter timeline.

The bill “prohibit distribution of harmful materials” or obscene books from being allowed in schools if a parent or citizen complains and the school principal or designee will have to respond quickly.

“We need a time for when these determinations are made,” said bill sponsor Rep. James Burchett, R-Waycross.

The bill calls for principals to review a parent’s complaint and investigate within 7 days, and provide a response within 10 days.

“The problem we are trying to address is there is no timing requirement. We want due proves for engagement for these parents,” Burchett told the lawmakers.

Opponents argued that the measure does not provide safeguards to school principals and teachers who may be bombarded with complaints from parents and community members as conservative groups push the book ban messaging.

“I’m thinking about the workload we are putting on our schools and our administrators,” said Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn.

Brandon Spencer is a parent complaining about the overall process in the Cherokee County School District where he has three children.

“My son--11 and a half. in 6th grade--about a month and a half ago was when this book was brought home,” The book Spencer is referencing is called the Giver. He says he took issue with some of the text which details killing among children.

“This was I would say a month and a half ago of course we immediately reached out to the principal and expressed concern about what was the disregard of children,” Spencer told CBS46. He submitted forms accusing the district of “maladministration” challenging a number of constitutional issues he sees as problematic in allowing obscene materials in school libraries. He views the access to the books as criminal.

Opponents of the bill spoke to the criminal component being a troubling part of the bill’s original intent.

“Let’s talk about how this started. It started as a criminal bill,” said Rep. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs. “It started out as a misdemeanor for librarians and media techs who failed to scrub the entire universe of knowledge of all potentially offensive things. It is a nationwide attempt as other bills this year to intimidate teachers,” he continued from the House floor.

Backed by research from conservative parent’s groups, some Cherokee County parents have submitted a list of more than 200 books they want banned that contain a range of topics from sexual content, homosexuality, violence, and race.

Cherokee County Schools has refuted some of the claims of parents who have spoken out about “obscene” books.

In a statement a district spokesperson Barbara Jacoby told CBS46, “All Cherokee County citizens, including CCSD parents, have the right to challenge the use of a book in CCSD classes or the inclusion of a book in CCSD school media centers; the School Board Policy that explains this process is online here: It is a simple process that begins with talking with the school’s Principal. If the concern is not alleviated at that level, the citizen can file an official challenge.”

The district says all parents have the right to seek an alternative novel for their child read when one is assigned for the class. They can make the request to the teacher.

“A citizen – not the parent you spoke with -- did submit a list of 225 books they wanted “banned” from CCSD schools. The majority of books on this list, which appears to be a list being circulated nationally by special interest groups, are not in CCSD schools.”

The district say its review process usually takes about three weeks after a book complaint has been filed. The district has spent thousands of dollars buying books for the entire review panel to read and review when a complaint is filed, Jacoby said. She added that out of the 14 recent complaints the Cherokee County School District has received, only two came from parents.

The bill passed the House Friday, but was asked to be reconsidered Monday, where it is likely to pass again if reconsidered.