Missouri law bans books, calls for jail time and fines for any educators found in violation
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A new Missouri law goes into effect Sunday.
Missouri SB 775 calls for a limit on reading materials in public and private schools.
“Books are and always have been a gateway to the past and the future,” said Colleen Norman.
She and other members of the Missouri Library Associaton’s Intellectual Freedom Committee said this wasn’t how the language of the measure started out.
Tiffany Mautino, the organization’s chair-elect said, “This bill was going forward and at the last second this part that would affect libraries, school libraries specifically, was added.”
Books containing anything that is considered sexually explicit are illegal. The exceptions are those considered artistic or informational in nature.
“This new law going into effect and this stuff happening within my own school are setting up my generation for failure,” said Keturah Flockstra.
The junior at Nixa High School says she’s been fighting the school board against these types of policies for months.
“It’s not allowing us to get multiple perspectives. It’s not allowing us to know about some of the harsh realities, know about some of the stuff that happened before our time,” she said.
Recent Nixa High School graduate Nicholas Jungen says the academic curriculum is already limited.
“You’re not taught real history in school. It’s annoying when you find out, oh that’s not what we were taught, why weren’t we taught this? This is important,” he said.
“The loudest voice, the only voice is this voice for censorship, for removal, for oversight, for criminalizing librarians. The other side is either unaware or not speaking up,” said Mautino.
The penalty for breaking the new law is a class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
“Unfortunately it will be enforceable by school boards who are making that decision. We’ve seen school boards across the state not following their own policies that they have in place when it comes to challenges on materials,” said Norman.
We reached out to some of the largest districts in the Ozarks. All of them declined an on-camera interview to discuss their policy for handling this. But sent us the following statements:
Springfield Public Schools - “The district has asked our legal counsel to review this statute and provide guidance on any implications for SPS. Until we receive those specifics and have an opportunity to review with our administrative team, we would not be able to provide context for an interview.”
Republic Schools - “We are not totally comfortable going on camera about this potentially divisive issue as we are building momentum for the start of a successful school year.”
Nixa Public Schools - “We are currently reviewing the impact the new law will have on any materials in our district. We will be reviewing materials on a case-by-case basis as questions arise from parents or staff.”
Willard Public Schools - “Thanks for the consideration, however, we are going to have to pass on this particular topic. I hope you can understand that we are focusing our efforts on kicking off the new year with several new faces on leadership and building the momentum for a great year ahead!”
“Books are not the only place they’re being exposed to complex and challenging issues,” said Mautino.
Flockstra said, “By removing these books you’re actually sparking more curiosity about them which is going to get more people interested.”
“Yeah take away books we have the internet. It’s a vast place. You can really fall down some holes that are worse than some of the content that these books offer,” said Jungen.
Norman said, “By taking away the choice you are removing a student’s ability to maybe find something that represents them and that may help them learn more about themselves and their own personal growth.”
We also reached out to the Missouri Association of School Librarians for an interview. They declined based on the amount of media requests they are receiving. You can find their statement on the law here.
A full version of the bill can be found here.
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