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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
11 Feb 2023

NextImg:Louisiana AG Audit of Sexually Explicit Books in Public Libraries Calls for Update to Policies to Restrict Children's Access

The Louisiana Attorney General has issued an audit on sexually explicit reading material found in public libraries that calls for an update to policies restricting children’s access.

“The Protecting Innocence report gives parents and officials the tools they requested to protect Louisiana’s children from sexually explicit material,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a press release on Tuesday. “Our report shows how community libraries can maintain healthy educational environments that allow for young minds to grow, while making sure minors do not have unrestricted access to materials that are inappropriate for their age group.”

Currently, children have access to material that Landry said is far from age appropriate.

He said he isn’t calling for a banning of the books, but an update on library policies and other potential solutions.

“One solution we recommend is updating our library card system so that parents can ultimately choose what materials are appropriate for their children, which then takes the pressure off of the librarians and puts more power back into the hands of parents—where it belongs,” Landry said. “I invite parents to download the report and get involved as they see fit.”

The report (pdf) includes sample letters to write to legislators about and model legislation for parents, whom he said initiated the need to conduct the audit.

Among the books and graphic novels Landry lists in the report are “Fun Home,” by Alison Bechdel; “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe; “Blankets,” by Craig Thompson; and “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison.

Each of these books describes and portrays explicit sex acts. In “Gender Queer,” “Fun Home,” and “Blankets,” there are graphic illustrations of sexual activity. In “Gender Queer,” the characters are minors.

“Gender Queer” has surfaced in library audits in other states like North Carolina, where Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson frequently used the book as an example when he created the Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students task force to gather evidence of critical race theory in K-12 classroom.

This was in 2021 when Democrats like North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper wrote off such efforts as “conspiracy-laden politics.”

Both “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” were pulled from the Fairfax Public School system in Virginia after a parent spoke out against the books at a school board meeting.

In Robinson’s report, themes of race shaming, sexualization of children, allusions to surgical castration in children’s literature, and accusations of xenophobia against political figures like former President Donald Trump surfaced.

Since then, there has been a growing number of school districts facing off with parents on why their children not only had access to such books but also in some cases why they were incorporated into the curriculum.

The Louisiana Library Association (LLA) issued a statement in response to Landry’s report, alleging that Landry said in the report that state librarians don’t care for the welfare of children and parents they serve and that public libraries provide unrestricted access for minors to sexually explicit material, which LLA said was untrue.

“Louisiana public libraries have policies and protections in place that enable parents to make good choices for their children,” LLA said.

The LLA said it was not contacted by Landry about the report, and that the report itself addresses “a nonexistent problem.”

The LLA pointed to a lawsuit seeking to prohibit Barnes & Noble from selling “Gender Queer.”

A Virginia judge dismissed the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, stating that “Gender Queer” didn’t meet the three prongs of the Miller Test for obscenity: whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the work appeals to the prurient interest; whether the work depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; or whether the work lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

“A recent case against Barnes and Noble in Virginia found that the title Gender Queer did not meet the legal requirements for obscenity, allowing booksellers to continue making the title available to anyone without restriction,” LLA said.

As did reporters in the press conference, LLA implied that the report is intended to target LGBTQ youth.

“When it becomes clear that efforts are being made to dehumanize a particular portion of the population by stigmatizing their voices or restricting access to information or ideas, the library and its supporters will always protect the basic human and civil rights of the community it serves,” LLA said.

In response to a reporter’s question in the press conference about similar reports targeting LGBTQ literature for children, Landry said the report only addresses age-appropriate books for children.

Sen. Heather Cloud said in the press conference that she has filed legislation that will require libraries to enact more up-to-date policies that will limit access to sexually explicit material to minors.

“Quite frankly, library policies across our state and our nation are pretty antiquated,” Cloud said. “Even Netflix knows that we need an age-appropriate rating system and parents are able to set those guides for their children’s viewing material at home.”

She said libraries, however, don’t have this.

“It’s a one-size-fits-all card,” she said. “Basically, if my 10-year-old nephew has a library card and he visits our local library he has full access to all the books in the library.”

Most people in the community wouldn’t want a 10-year-old walking into a library and being able “to check out something like a Penthouse magazine,” she added.

The LLA addressed Cloud’s simile, stating, “We need to be very clear here: public libraries in Louisiana do not subscribe to pornographic magazines either in print or digital format. This statement appeared to be designed to anger and frighten parents and others who are concerned about the innocence of children.”

Cloud’s legislation is designed to give parents the authority on what their children can and can’t check out of the library, guard children against sexually explicit material, and protect libraries and librarians from liability.

“There are consequences for libraries that fail to implement policy,” Cloud said. “But quite frankly, every other medium, whether it’s Netflix, whether it’s video games, whether you go to your local movie theater—there are all age restrictions and criteria—but this does not exist within our library system,” she said.

In a response to a question about what the consequences are for libraries that don’t comply, Cloud said that the library boards, which are funded by parish governments, “may—not shall” have budget funding withheld.

“Let me just encourage you before you make too many assumptions to look at the report yourself,” Cloud said.

Cloud said any parent who views the material listed in the report wouldn’t want their child to have access to those books.

“This is simply just protecting our children, giving you as a parent the ability to protect your children from such content until they are able and ready to absorb those kinds of materials, if ever,” Cloud said.

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