SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A bill to establish a statewide policy for the handling of public library materials deemed obscene or harmful to minors was shelved Wednesday by the House Education Committee.
Supporters of Republican Rep. Jon Hansen‘s House Bill 1163 said a statewide policy is needed to prevent obscene or harmful materials in public schools or public libraries from reaching minors. The House Education meeting voted it down and then, voted to send it to the 41st day, which kills the bill.
Opponents said HB1163 is not necessary since public libraries and public schools have policies to review library material and to handle complaints about material. Also, a portion of the committee member lawmakers said parents and school districts need to make sure those policies work.
If the bill would have passed in the Legislature, school districts would simply hand lawmakers the policies that are already in place, said Wade Pogany, executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. Pogany said districts review books for their libraries and have a process for complaints and concerns.
Committee member Republican Rep. Scott Odenbach said local policies are not working based on the material submitted before and at Wednesday’s meeting by HB1163 supporters.
The majority of committee members (8) said policies on material that be obscene or harmful to minors is a matter for local control.
Committee member Republican Tyler Tordsen said he wanted to make sure that HB1163 would create a sound policy and that local policies were sound. He had concerns about how the pre-review policy was addressed in HB1163. He did not support the bill, in part because the threshold for what is determined harmful could be different for individual librarians or parents.
“I will defer to local control,” Tordsen said, and encouraged parents and parent groups to be aware and involved locally.
Republican Rep. Brian Mulder, who is also a committee member, said he was also on the “the local control side.” His wife is a youth pastor who recently got complaints from parents about a youth skit parody video being obscene and harmful. The skit was a humorous one in which one male youth put a towel on his head to impersonate a female while the other male youth played a male, Mulder said.
Mulder said he did not discount that obscene material may be in schools but HB1163 wasn’t the option.
The state law cited in HB 1163 clearly defines what harmful material is, committee member Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch said. He read a description from the law which includes “includes in its meaning the quality of any material or of any performance or of any description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse, if it: (a) Predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful, or morbid interest of minors; and (b) Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors; and (c) Is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
Committee chairman and Republican Rep. Mike Stevens said the prevailing standards in the adult community is the piece that means local control. Stevens voted to send HB1163 to the 41st day.
Several parents who supported HB1163 mentioned books they said they had found in their children’s school libraries. Some of the mentioned books include a book that described molestation of character by the character’s parents or give a vivid account of the rape of sex trafficking victim. The parents said such material is not appropriate for minor students.
A minor under South Dakota law is a person under 18.
Another parent said students also have access to a book that describes how they can get exploited by using the internet.
Sam Nelson, a lawyer, who is also a lobbyist for the Sioux Falls School District, said he has worked with numerous victims including victims of sex trafficking.
“They didn’t get where they were because of a book on library shelf,” Nelson said. “Taking a book off a shelf won’t stop (trafficking).”