Arizona Senate advances bill that would ban certain books in public and charter schools

Republican lawmakers want to ban books in K-12 classrooms that promote gender fluidity or contain sexual material.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 7:57 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The Senate Education Committee and Senate Rules Committee have both voted in favor of a bill that would result in certain books being banned in Arizona schools.

Republican lawmakers want to ban books in K-12 classrooms that promote gender fluidity or contain sexual material. “When you were children, you were not supposed to be understanding what mutual masturbation is,” Republican Senator Justine Wadsack (D-17) said. For Wadsack, introducing Senate Bill 1700 wasn’t about banning books and wasn’t supposed to be controversial. “The idea is just to protect them from seeing these over-sexualized images and topics,” she said.

If passed, this bill would not only lead to a list of prohibited books but also allow public and charter school parents the right to request removal of any books they believe are sexual or promote gender fluidity, gender pronouns, or grooming. These requests would then be approved or not approved by a district governing board. “It’s very important that the parents get to review these books. If they don’t like it, then it needs to go up for a review,” Wadsack said. “There needs to be next steps taken as to whether or not it’s decent.”

But Senator Christine Marsh (D-District 4), a longtime teacher, says by classifying some books as too sexual and too gender-fluid, Arizona schools are creating an environment that isn’t realistic and doesn’t match what kids are experiencing in their day-to-day lives. “It’s going to have an incredibly limiting effect on curriculum and on book choices,” Marsh said.

Marsh also worries about how this bill would impact teachers in a state where there’s already a teacher shortage, as well as trouble attracting and retaining teachers. “It’s just one more attack that teachers have been suffering for a very long time,” she said.

While Marsh says content like porn shouldn’t be in schools, she believes sexually explicit content is a broader category, more subject to interpretation. “There is a line,” Marsh said. “But I think that line is best determined at a local level.”

To that, Wadsack has this response about any list of banned books. “It should be statewide,” Wadsack said. “Because the laws I write are not for districts. They’re for the state.” The bill needs a final vote from the Senate before advancing to the House.