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State can now jail violators of ‘sexually explicit’ book ban

Some Missouri schools may remove “sexually explicit” reading material from library shelves after a new state law announced possible jail time for those who disobey.

Missouri SB 775, which went into effect Sunday, bans all books in public and private schools that contain material considered “sexually explicit.” Books considered artistic or informative are excluded from the law.

Violators are likely to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a $2,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

The chair-elect of the Missouri Library Association’s intellectual freedom committee, Tiffany Mautino, told WXIX that the bills didn’t start with banning the books.

A display of banned or censored books at the independent Books Inc bookstore in Alameda, California. A Missouri law passed Sunday prohibits “sexually explicit” content in schools.
Smith/Gado/Getty Images Collection

“This bill was going ahead and at the last second this part that would affect libraries, school libraries in particular, was added,” Mautino said.

The law describes sexually explicit materials as those comprising photograph, film, video, image of a computer-generated image showing human masturbation, sexual intercourse, direct stimulation of the genitals, sadomasochistic abuse or emphasizing the depiction of post-pubescent human genitalia. Content related to science courses such as anatomy, biology and others are not subject to the law.

Missouri students speak out against the new law.

“This new law coming into effect and what is happening in my own school is setting my generation up for failure,” Keturah Flockstra, a student at Nixa High School in Nixa, told WXIX. She said she had fought with her district school board against restrictive policies such as SB 775 for months.

Nixa Public Schools released the following statement: “We are currently reviewing the impact the new law will have on any materials in our district. We will review materials on a case-by-case basis as parents or staff ask questions.”

The Association of School Librarians of Missouri (MASL) has released a statement on its website encouraging educators and school librarians to familiarize themselves with the law.

“School librarians are encouraged to consult with their administration and school board for guidance regarding school library materials based on SB775,” the statement said.

MASL also advised librarians on what to do if they faced reading problems at school.

“MASL stands with all school librarians,” the statement said. “We understand the immense impact of taking on a challenge and will support our librarians to preserve intellectual freedom.”

This isn’t the first time Missouri has made headlines in regards to banning certain content. This year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of two minors against the Wentzville School District, which had removed eight books from the school’s shelves.


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