Texas bill prohibiting sexually explicit content in public schools heads to governor’s desk

(The Daily Signal) – A bipartisan bill banning sexually explicit content in public school libraries has passed the Texas Senate and is on its way to the governor’s desk.

HB 900, dubbed The…

(The Daily Signal) – A bipartisan bill banning sexually explicit content in public school libraries has passed the Texas Senate and is on its way to the governor’s desk.

HB 900, dubbed The READER Act, specifies what “sexual content” is and prescribes actions by Texas public schools to ensure that children aren’t given access to pornographic, sexually explicit, or other age-inappropriate materials.

The bill, co-sponsored by four Republicans and a Democrat, passed the Texas House on April 19 by a vote of 95-52, with support from 82 Republicans and 13 Democrats. All of the “no” votes were from Democrats. 

The Texas Senate passed HB 900 on Tuesday with a vote of 19-12 along party lines.

Now the bill goes to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, who is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

Assuming it is enacted, curriculum vendors in Texas would be required to assign ratings to books based on the level of age-appropriateness for sexual references and depictions. 

A book or graphic novel (a story told in comic-book format) containing “patently offensive” material such as depictions of pornography and rape would be required to be labeled as “sexually explicit,” prohibiting placement of those books in any K-12 school library. 

Although existing Texas law already bans the sale and distribution of sexually explicit books to minors, it included an exception for educational settings such as K-12 classrooms and school libraries.

The discovery of dozens of sexually explicit and highly disturbing material in the libraries of several Texas public schools shocked parents and drove Republicans and Democrats alike in the Texas House to pass HB 900. 

Texas GOP officials told The Daily Signal that excerpts from books such as “Let’s Talk About It,” “Ready for It,” “Goblin Slayer,” “Gender Queer,” and “Blue Is the Warmest Color” were sent to elected representatives from both parties—many of whom said they had no idea the books were in school libraries in their legislative districts.

These books contained material so disturbing that The Daily Signal had to issue content warnings in my previous report on the books.

Under the legislation awaiting Abbott’s signature, vendors caught selling sexually explicit books such as these to Texas public schools would be prohibited from selling to that district in the future. Vendors and teachers unions vehemently protested that provision.

Fifteen speakers testified in favor of the bill May 15 before the state Senate’s Education Committee, including representatives of BookPeople, the Association of American Publishers, the Texas Library Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Educational Book & Media Association, the Texas State Teachers Association, and the Texas Association of School Psychologists. 

Several individuals who testified against HB 900 identified themselves as employees of the publishing companies Pearson, Penguin, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, but The Daily Signal could not verify that before publication.

Texas parents praised HB 900, sending hundreds of emails and social media messages to legislators in support of the bill, state Republican Party officials told The Daily Signal. 

State Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, an author of the bill, told The Daily Signal in a written statement:

The READER Act is model legislation because it was written with input from those who have fought this issue—Texas moms. I am so proud to be a voice for them in Austin. Parents deserve to have sexually explicit materials removed, a say on other relevant content, and to have book vendors held accountable for the filth they are pushing on our kids.