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Texas lawmakers expand rules to ban school books for sexual content

Texas Governor Greg Abbott holds a news conference prior to the deployment of Texas National Guardsmen to the US-Mexico border, in Austin, Texas, Monday, May 8, 2023. Texas will revise its definition of explicit material sexual or possibly harmful to children to ban books from school and charter libraries, in a bill passed in the state Senate Tuesday night and sent to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas will revise its definition of sexually explicit material or material potentially harmful to children to ban books from school and charter libraries in a bill passed in the state Senate Tuesday night. night and sent to the governor, Republican Greg Abbott.

The initiative in Texas adds to other efforts to ban reading material in conservative US states. Critics charge that the rules in the Texas proposal are too vague, will affect books that are not inappropriate, and materials that address LGBTQ+ issues will be more likely to be banned.

The law passed by the Republican-led Legislature defines “sexually explicit content” as anything that includes descriptions, illustrations or sounds that depict sexual conduct that is not relevant to the school curriculum, and prohibits it from school libraries.

The rule requires the state Archives and Library Commission to set standards for schools to follow when buying books and a rating system to restrict or ban some materials.

“We are talking about sexually explicit material (…) that should not be in the eyes of children,” said the promoter of the law, Republican Senator Angela Paxto. “They shouldn’t find it in their school library.”

Abbott, who is a Republican, has joined a campaign by Republican lawmakers to investigate the use of books in schools that cover topics such as race, gender identity and sexual orientation. That investigation included a list of more than 800 books.

In April, leaders in a rural county in central Texas considered shutting down its public library system rather than comply with a federal judge’s order to return books on topics such as teen sexuality and gender, discrimination and race to shelves.

Under the rule passed Tuesday night, booksellers would have to rank books based on their references to the sixth. “Sexually relevant” material that depicts or depicts sex but is part of the required school curriculum may be withdrawn from libraries with family permission.

A book would be labeled “sexually explicit” if the material is considered offensive and not part of the required curriculum. Those books would be removed from school shelves.

State authorities will review the ratings given by sellers and may request a change if they believe it is incorrect. School districts and charter schools would be prohibited from hiring booksellers who refuse to comply with the rule.

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