Oregon Senate’s New Bill Attempts To Ban Book Bans

The Oregon Senate’s recent decision to ban book bans in public schools and libraries marks a victory for academic freedom, allowing kids to read what they want.

Book Bans Book Culture
A bookshelf locked behind a chain. A hand comes in with the key to unlock the bookshelf.

The Oregon Senate has passed a bill that blocks school boards and other school officials from removing library books and textbooks because they are written by or have the perspective of protected class members. The bill, introduced this year by Senator Lew Frederick, is in response to the rise of school books being challenged by parents.

Oregon’s Preemptive Action

Frederick’s bill aims to make Oregon a state that preemptively stops book bans for discriminatory reasons. With cheers from organizations such as the Oregon Education Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and jeers from some parents and GOP lawmakers who have suggested that the state is attempting to control school decisions and indoctrinating kids, GOP senators set out to swap the bill with their proposal that would create a task force to look at the subject and make recommendations for future legislation. While this bill failed to pass, it did set up Frederick’s bill to pass through.

Stack of books next to a gavel with a balance scale between them.

Proposed bans have grown in recent years with parents and other groups wishing to ban books for being sexually explicit or inappropriate. PEN America found that books commonly flagged as inappropriate often have protagonists who are people of color and who are LGBTQ. In Oregon alone, a state librarian says 93 books were highlighted for possible removal from schools and public libraries in 2023, which is triple the previous year and higher than the previous record of 70 challenged titles back in 1993.

Oregon’s Goal

This legislative action sends a clear message about supporting educators as facilitators of knowledge. By allowing teachers and librarians to curate materials that reflect the diversity of human experience, Oregon affirms its belief in the power of education to broaden perspectives and inspire intellectual growth. Simply letting these books be available in libraries allows students to learn and also lets parents make their own decisions on what their children should be able to read.

A young girl in glasses reading a book at a table.

While challenges to academic freedom persist across the country, Oregon’s proactive stance sets a positive example for other states grappling with similar issues. Oregon demonstrates its commitment to preserving the principles of free speech and intellectual inquiry by prioritizing the right to explore different viewpoints and engage in open dialogue.

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