WASHINGTON (TND) — There's a battle within the nation’s libraries and schools. The American Library Association is sounding the alarm, warning that the country is facing a record number of attempts to ban books — the majority of which, they say, are written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.
In Idaho, a bill would allow parents to sue libraries and schools over this so-called “harmful content” but critics say nationwide efforts to restrict content are what's really causing harm.
“I ran for office to protect kids and that’s exactly what I’m doing with this bill,” said Sen. Cindy Carlson of Idaho’s District 7.
Under the new legislation, a parent could file suit against a library for $2500 in damages if a minor obtains material with sexual content that’s determined to be harmful to children when applying contemporary community standards.
“It’s sex between male and female, sex between two males, sex between two women, it’s other kinds of sex, not intercourse, it’s just, these materials are not, should not, be available to minors,” said Carlson.
But parents like Lauren Cave disagree with the effort, saying it's limiting children's access to different perspectives.
“I don’t think that’s the right message,” Cave said. “I think we need to build trust with our librarians and our teachers. I feel like we should have informed conversations with our kids about what sex is and what different perspectives mean.”
There are growing divisions over the books children have access to at public libraries across the country from Texas to Michigan.
The American Library Association says in 2021, they reported 729 attempts to “censor library resources,” targeting 1,597 books — the highest number of attempted book bans, they say, since the group began documenting this more than 20 years ago. As the list grows, according to their latest numbers, some have raised concerns over first amendment rights being violated and questions over whether LGBTQ content is being targeted.
“With the Idaho law, there’s a dimension to this that’s very different," said Dr. Marc Clausen, a history and law professor at Cedarville University. "You’re not telling anybody directly that they can’t have these materials, which gets you around the First Amendment problem since you’re not restricting anybody’s speech. However, you add this second part of this that is, anybody can sue you for having them, that’s a way to circumvent the whole First Amendment Issue.”
Clausen says the books deemed harmful to children can vary from state to state.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little vetoed the bill, saying in a letter Wednesday, it “makes blanket assumptions on materials” that could be seen as "harmful to minors."