The signing of HEA 1447 caps off a contentious and secretive process to move forward legislation that Republicans say empowers parents and Democrats warn will lead to the banning of books that tackle controversial social issues and feature marginalized characters.
The law requires public and charter schools to establish a process to allow both parents and community members to challenge books in school libraries that they believe are inappropriate for children. It also requires schools to publicly post their library catalogs.
Additionally, the law bars public school employees from using a book’s educational value as a defense against charges they distributed harmful material to minors.
The legislation was driven by concerns among Republican lawmakers that school libraries contained pornographic materials; but they presented little evidence during hearings on the measure that porn in schools is a problem.
Democrats who oppose the law say it will have a chilling effect; they worry the measure will ultimately limit access to certain types of materials in schools, particularly books that address race and those that include LGBTQ characters and themes.
Republicans claimed the law will not be used to ban books with those themes. They said books will only be removed if they meet the standard for obscene or harmful material under existing Indiana law.