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Senate Bill 1221 — School library materials review

Senate Bill 1221 — School library materials review

Parrish Miller
January 14, 2024

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1221 would attempt to appease parents and address the ongoing problem of obscene materials in school libraries but would not place substantive restrictions on materials or school boards.

NOTE: There have been several bills introduced to deal with the ongoing problem of obscene materials in schools and libraries, including House Bill 384, introduced at the beginning of the 2024 legislative session. Among these options, Senate Bill 1221 is the most anemic, setting no content standards and having no applicability to public libraries. 

Rating: -2

Does the bill create more transparency or accountability in public education institutions? Conversely, does the bill reduce transparency and accountability in such institutions?

Senate Bill 1221 would create Section 33-512E, Idaho Code, titled "Selection, Review, and Reconsideration of School Library Materials."

Under this section, local education agencies would be required to "develop and adopt policies addressing the use of, access to, and operation of school libraries." The policies would describe "the method for selection of school library materials," "require periodic curation, review, and revision of school library materials," "ensure the complete inventory of school library materials is available to parents and legal guardians of students enrolled at the relevant school," and "specify the process for the reconsideration of school library materials."

According to the bill, selected school library materials must:

  • Be suitable to appropriate levels of maturity, difficulty, and interest to promote the enlightenment of each student served by the school library;
  • Be of sufficient scope to stimulate growth in knowledge, literary appreciation, and ethical standards in each student served by the school library;
  • Be comprehensive resources that enable students to make intelligent judgments on a range of topics and issues;
  • Assist teachers in providing student instruction; and
  • Contain factual content that is accurate, current, reliable, and authoritative.

While these may seem like good standards, what should stand out is that the standards that are lacking. There are no requirements that the materials not indoctrinate children in woke ideology or promote deviancy, nor are the materials prohibited from falling under the definition of materials "harmful to minors" found elsewhere in Idaho code. 

Senate Bill 1221 appears to require policies that create transparency and accountability, but the specifics make it clear that these policies will do nothing to remedy the problems they are supposedly being created to address. 


Senate Bill 1221 would also require school boards to "establish a library materials review committee to review formal requests for reconsideration of selected school library materials and to review school library procedures on an annual basis."

This committee would be tasked with reviewing any "formal request for reconsideration" that is submitted "in writing using a local trustee-approved reconsideration form." (If the form isn't filled out, "the request shall be denied without review.")

Would this review committee provide a check on the school board? Not so much. The committee would either be comprised of the members of the school board or the school board could choose to appoint a library materials review committee.

And what happens if the committee decides that the challenged materials should remain? 

The requester may appeal the review committee's decision to … the school board. 

So, the process would work like this: 

  • A school board, through school employees, chooses to put obscene materials in the school library it controls.
  • Parents jump through hoops to file a formal request for reconsideration.
  • A "library materials review committee" made up of either school board members or their direct appointees denies the request. 
  • Parents appeal the denial to the same school board, which predictably upholds the denial previously issued either by the board itself or its proxies.
  • The process ends.

Is this transparency? Accountability? No. This is the formalization of the process jokingly referred to by the cynical observation, "We have investigated ourselves and found that we did nothing wrong."

Minor children have the right not to be exposed to sexually obscene material in government facilities like schools and libraries. Senate Bill 1221 would do nothing substantive to protect this right.


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