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School librarians face a new penalty in the banned-book wars: Prison

Washington Post: “Librarians could face years of imprisonment and tens of thousands in fines for providing sexually explicit, obscene or “harmful” books to children under new state laws that permit criminal prosecution of school and library personnel. At least seven states have passed such laws in the last two years, according to a Washington Post analysis, six of them in the past two months — although governors of Idaho and North Dakota vetoed the legislation. Another dozen states considered more than 20 similar bills this year, half of which are likely to come up again in 2024, The Post found. Some of the laws impose severe penalties on librarians, who until now were exempted in almost every state from prosecution over obscene material — a carve-out meant to permit accurate lessons in topics such as sex education. All but one of the new laws target schools, while some also target the staff of public libraries and one affects book vendors. One example is an Arkansas measure that says school and public librarians, as well as teachers, can be imprisoned for up to six years or fined $10,000 if they distribute obscene or harmful texts. It takes effect Aug. 1…”

See also The New York Times – This P.T.A. Mom Is Suing Her School District for Banning Books. “Lindsay Durtschi, a member of the P.T.A. in bright-red Escambia County, Fla., knows that coming out as a public face in the fight against book banning could make her life difficult, but she’s made peace with it. “I don’t want my business to suffer,” the optometrist and mother of elementary school-age girls told me. “I don’t want my kids to be bullied.” She worries her family could be threatened. “But if that’s what ends up happening, then I’ll tell everybody about it. I’m not one to keep my mouth shut.” Durtschi is part of a groundbreaking lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, against the Escambia County School District and Escambia County School Board for their sweeping school library censorship. In addition to Durtschi and another Escambia County parent, the plaintiffs include the free expression organization PEN America, Penguin Random House and a group of authors of children’s and young adult books. The suit seeks to have Escambia’s book restrictions declared unconstitutional for targeting specific viewpoints and for infringing on the rights of students to receive information. Given the frenzy of book bans we’re now seeing nationwide — The Washington Post reported that in several states, librarians can be sent to prison for giving kids the wrong books — the outcome will have national implications.”

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