Georgia Legislature approves new process for banning books in schools

Georgia lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to legislation that would change the process for removing books from schools due to parent complaints about obscenity.

Senate Bill 226 now goes to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature. It would expedite the process for removing books and other content seen as “harmful to minors.”

If it becomes law, principals will have seven business days to decide whether to remove contested works, and 10 business days to inform the complainant of the decision. The local school board would have 30 calendar days to decide any appeals.

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The Senate voted 29-21 to approve the legislation Wednesday.

The House passed the measure Friday after making changes to a version approved by the Senate last year. One House change disappointed some who had pushed for the bill.

The Senate’s earlier version, approved in the first year of the two-year legislative session, would have required school districts to post the content of contested portions of books and other works online if the school board declined to remove them.

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The House amended the bill so that only the title of the challenged work would have to be published on the school system’s website.

The Senate approved the changes after the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, said he agreed with them. He said in an interview afterward that the final version of the bill improves the process for vetting parent complaints.

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“I think it creates a transparent process to deal with obscene materials in schools,” Anavitarte said. “It gives parents a pathway to object to materials that maybe don’t need to be in a school setting.”

Georgia school librarians oppose the measure, saying schools are already required to have a process to consider parent complaints. That process usually involves a panel that includes school librarians, teachers and parents.

The Senate also on Wednesday agreed to House changes to Senate Bill 588. The legislation by Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller contains language requiring transparency around school board meetings that critics say is mostly already in law.

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