LUBBOCK, Texas — Lubbock folks like Coltin Foster are eagerly awaiting September 1, so House Bill 900 can take effect.
“It’s not that we’re banning books, it’s that we’re just trying to get the sexually explicit content out of public education,” said Foster.
He and others who support the law believe it will help protect children from mature content in books at school, but folks like Desiree Freyburger with the non-profit organization, Friends of the Library, believe otherwise.
“In my mind, it’s more about control,” said Freyburger. “Wanting to control people’s access to ideas, and the problem with that, again, is fear. You know, it’s these uncomfortable topics that parents don’t want to deal with.”
House Bill 900 will require public schools to take books deemed ‘patently offensive’ off the shelves, and book vendors will have to assign ratings based on references to sexual content among other duties. But another big part of the debate is the role of parental rights in education.
“I believe that parents should have the information of what’s going on in our public education, and so we really need that transparency, and that’s what 900 focuses on,” said Foster. “It focuses on the catalogs [that] need to be transparent online and book companies that sell the books also have to rate their books, so the schools know what the books are before they purchase them.”
Parental rights have been in Texas law since the 1990s, and is something all these folks support but in different ways.
“Parents absolutely have a right to control what their children read, but you have a right to control what your children read, not what my children read and the First Amendment guarantees that,” said Freyburger. “You need to have these discussions with your children about uncomfortable topics. They need to get the information from you, not from YouTube, not from TikTok, not from the kids on the playground.”
Both sides of the debate also agree that more work needs to be done for their cause.
“We can go and we can start the process and we can pull one book off the shelf, but there’s hundreds and hundreds and who’s to say that kid’s not going to get the book,” asked Foster.
“Read, become informed and discuss it with your children because I guarantee you they’re going to get that information,” said Freyburger. “They’re exposed to this everywhere you look, taking the books out of the library.Is not what’s needed.”
There’s an ongoing lawsuit against HB 900, which was filed by book vendors in July who said the language in the bill is too vague to make the ratings, the law violates First Amendment rights of the book vendors. A US district judge has yet to rule on whether to legally pause the bill after hearing arguments on Monday. So, for now, September 1st is when the law is supposed to go into effect, but it won’t be enforced in schools until April of next year.