Arizona Senate bill aims to prohibit certain books and material in schools

SB 1700 would grant parents the right to remove books they deem inappropriate from their child’s library.
SB 1700 would require the Arizona Department of Education to keep a list of books that schools may not use or make available.
Published: Mar. 11, 2023 at 7:29 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) -A bill making its way through the Arizona Senate would require the Arizona Department of Education to keep a list of books that schools may not use or make available to students.

Supporters of SB 1700 say this bill will strengthen parental rights by protecting children from reading and viewing sexually explicit or lewd material without their permission.

But opponents believe this is another step in the wrong direction.

“When you ban a book completely, it sets a very bad tone, and a very bad precedent for any sort of future expression,” said Margaret Chaney, president of the Tucson Education Association.

SB 1700 will allow parents the right to request that school districts or charter school libraries remove books and material that are lewd or sexual, promote gender fluidity or gender pronouns, or groom children into normalizing pedophilia.

Senator Justine Wadsack of Tucson said this bill is needed as it has been a growing concern among her constituents.

“There have been a couple of schools, in particular Vail school district where they had the, The Diary of an Indian, that raised a lot of concern from parents. Just over the last few years, it’s been a lot of graphic, almost cartoon versions of sexual acts,” said Sen. Justine Wadsack of Tucson. “It’s gotten to the point where K-12 parents are not interested in having these types of books, with this level of graphics introduced to their children.”

But opponents have a problem with this bill, especially in regard to the issue of gender fluidity and pronouns.

“Every day that I would walk into a campus or that our students walk into campus, we want them to feel safe. We want them to be able to sit down and get right to work. What I’m not interested is having our students not feel welcomed in they’re not field seen in our classrooms,” said Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association.

Wadsack said it is the schools responsibility to teach students reading, writing, and math, not gender fluidity and sexuality. She believes through this bill parental rights will be strengthened.

“This puts the power back into the hands of the parent, it’s not a book banning bill. We’re not setting books on fire, but what it does is it gives the parents some recourse, some ability to say, hey, I don’t approve of this book,” said Wadsack. “Then take it to the Department of Education and say, what do you guys plan to do about this and start the process of determining whether or not it is a book that is legitimately appropriate, especially for the age groups that they’re being introduced to.”

However, opponents believe this should be left up to local school boards rather than the state.

“I don’t understand why we’d want the state and government to be making those types of decisions and not the school board member who maybe shops with me at the grocery store every Sunday and understands what’s going on in our community,” said Garcia

Opponents add that they feel the language of the bill could create a slippery slope that leads to the banning of books such as “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “The Color Purple.”

But Wadsack said that is simply not true.

“I think it’s very clear as to what this bill is really for, and we need to stop the other narrative that is trying to beat this down. We are not book banning, we are trying to make sure that our children are learning what is appropriate,” said Wadsack.

Opponents said it is bills like this one that contribute to the current teacher retention problem. They ask, what is stopping teachers from moving to a neighboring state where they can make more money and face less restrictions on what they can teach.