TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Proposed Indiana Senate Bill 12 says that a school library may not make books available that contain matters harmful or inappropriate to children. It also says that school librarians and teachers would no longer be eligible for specified defense to criminal prosecutions.

According to Indiana General Assembly website the synopsis of the proposed bill is as follows:

“Material harmful to minors. Establishes a procedure: (1) to allow a parent or guardian of a child enrolled in a school to submit a complaint that a book in the school library is inappropriate; and (2) for the school to respond to the complaint. Establishes an appeal procedure. Provides that a school library may not make a book available that contains obscene matter or matters harmful to children. Removes schools from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors. Adds colleges and universities to the list of entities eligible for a specified defense to criminal prosecutions alleging: (1) the dissemination of material harmful to minors; or (2) a performance harmful to minors.”

Senate Bill 12 – Material harmful to minors – Indiana General Assembly, 2023 Session

Uniserve Director of the Indiana State Teachers Association, Kim Fidler, said when thinking about the legislative session, you can’t just look at the tree. She said you need to look at the entire forest. She referenced the tree and the forest to depict that when looking at Senate Bill 12 alone it might not seem very harmful but when you step back and look at the forest, or all the bills affecting public education, you can really see how damaging this bill is.

“Alone it might not seem so harmful, that we’re saying, ‘Oh let’s restrict a book, let’s get that book out of our library,” Fidler said. “But in the bigger picture, it’s very harmful. It’s very harmful when we put all of this together,” she added.

Terre Haute resident, Micheal Hylman, felt that the bills wording was vague, “I think that’s a little too open ended. There’s difference of opinion from one person to the next on what’s harmful.”

Senate Bill 12’s passing would mean school librarians, teachers and other staff members could face jail time. Employees could be charged with a level six felony, which carries a maximum penalty of two-and-a-half years in prison and ten thousand dollars in fines.

Ronald Lowe, Terre Haute resident, agreed with Hylman, “There’s a big gap on that. Inappropriate goes a long way. Adult material, yeah, I could see. But some kid’s material you consider offensive isn’t offensive anymore. There were some books with gang material in it that would be considered inappropriate and not age appropriate,” he said.

The bill would establish a procedure to allow parents to submit complaints about inappropriate books in school libraries, something Fidler believe already happens in public schools, as needed.

“And what is the definition of one view, one set of standards,” Fidler asked. “That’s the indoctrination. So, I go back to the whole idea of inclusion versus indoctrination, and everyone wants to be included, nobody wants to be excluded for any reason,” she said.

Fidler believes that the passing of the bill with such aggressive penalties toward educators would lead to the removal of books with any degree of controversial content.

The bill passed the senate 37 to 12 and has moved to the House for consideration.