South Dakota House panel passes bill requiring public schools, libraries to publish policies on obscene books

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PIERRE — A bill that would require school districts and public libraries to publish policies on restricting minors from accessing obscene materials or books unanimously passed the state House Education Committee on Monday.

Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, said the bill strikes a balance between local control and ensuring parents or concerned citizens have a path to object to available books.

The bill would expand an already existing law addressing obscene material online to physical books. It does not enforce a specific policy for handling book concerns, but requires schools and libraries to publish policies on their website or annually in the local newspaper.

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“Many of our public schools and libraries already do this,” Stevens told lawmakers. “So, this will not be anything necessarily new to them.”

The bill received support from the state Department of Education, parents, and some education organizations, some of whom called the bill a “common sense solution.”

One opponent, a resident from Rapid City, testified against the bill, concerned that it would be a step toward a larger book banning movement in the state. 

Representatives on the committee said the bill is part of an ongoing conversation about children accessing books with sexually explicit content.

“I don’t think this is going to solve the problem like we think it’s going to,” said Rep. Bethany Soye, R-Sioux Falls, who voted in favor of the bill. “We don’t want this to just be the end of the discussion. There’s going to need to be follow-up on this.”

The bill now heads to the House floor for further consideration.