The Kansas House of Representatives is currently considering House Bill 2662.
The truly sinister aspect of HB 2662 is that it establishes a system of labeling, sequestering and censoring content in school curricula or libraries that any parent believes “…harms the child or impairs the parents firmly held beliefs, values or principles…” This means that if a parent firmly believes, for example, the holocaust never happened, minorities and women are inferior, their faith is superior to another, that sex is a completely forbidden topic, every book in the school library or curriculum that “impairs” that belief could be thrown away. HB 2662 requires that whenever any parent makes the demand, a school must label a book “Parental review is recommended.” Once a book has been labeled, the school’s library catalog must provide excerpts of any sexual content, “excessive” profanity or violence and set the book aside. Next follows the battle over every book that has been labeled. The label can only be removed if the book is deemed “unequivocally not deserving of such designation.” How can any book meet this standard when the bill itself explicitly creates equivocation by forcing books to be labeled in the first place? In other words, this law sets up an impossible standard.
Kansas has tried and tested laws on obscenity as well as criteria for determining what is/is not harmful to minors. An important part of those criteria is that “…a reasonable person would find that the material or performance lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors…” HB 2662 undermines those mature, valid, meaningful criteria with an unreasonable, capricious system that applies the completely subjective term “excessive.” It invites every parent in Kansas to use their personal and private beliefs to censor what all students in their local schools can read. Not just their student, all students. HB 2662 makes censorship the business of every school and school librarian in Kansas. Censorship is not an American value. It is not an American ideal. It must be resisted. I urge you to contact our local state government officials and voice your objection to censorship in Kansas and HB 2662.
Matt Nojonen, Director
Leavenworth Public Library