Pennsylvania Senate Bill Aims to Empower Parents on School Content
Pennsylvania is currently deliberating on Senate Bill 7, proposed by Republican Senator Ryan Aument, aiming to give parents more control over their children’s access to sexually explicit content in school libraries and instructional materials, particularly for students from kindergarten to eighth grade. This bill is a reintroduction of a similar bill from the previous session. The primary difference in the current version is that instead of offering parents an opt-out for potentially objectionable content, they would be asked to opt-in if they want their children to access such materials.
Senator Aument has uploaded passages from books and blurred images from graphic novels on the state’s website to illustrate his concerns. These examples, five in total, describe or depict sexual acts and are often considered coming-of-age works where characters explore their sexuality and orientation. Senator Aument noted that most of these examples were discovered in high schools or middle schools, while one book was found in at least six elementary schools.
During a Senate Education Committee hearing, Senator Aument defended the bill against accusations that it aims to silence marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ and Black and brown authors. He emphasized that the bill does not intend to ban books, as opponents suggest, but rather seeks to involve parents in the decision-making process regarding their children’s access to explicit content.
Emily Zimmerman, a former teacher and member of the Warwick School District Board of Education, supported the bill as a parent and said that the discovery of explicit content in school libraries led her to pursue public office. She emphasized the need for a statewide law that defines book challenges and helps school boards create consistent policies. While she praised her own school board’s policy for addressing explicit content, she noted the severe community divisions it caused, which may never fully heal. Zimmerman believes that SB7 can alleviate the burden placed on individuals, including neighbors, children, teachers, and librarians, by providing a framework that protects children while respecting family discretion.
Senator Michele Brooks underscored the explicit nature of the content in question, clarifying that the bill specifically targets sexually-charged content rather than works like “Romeo and Juliet” or biblical references. She stressed that the bill does not ban these books but requires parental consent for access. She drew a comparison between minors accessing explicit content in school libraries and their inability to access whole milk in school lunches, describing this as “lunacy.”
In summary, Pennsylvania’s Senate is considering SB7, which aims to involve parents in determining their children’s access to sexually explicit content in school libraries and instructional materials. Supporters believe that this bill can protect children while respecting family discretion. The debate surrounding this legislation continues, and its impact on school curriculums and parental rights remains a contentious issue.