Background on 2021 Session

Distribution of Harmful Materials to Minors bills

 

Both bills (SB 226 and HB 516) may be advanced in the 2022 Session so members are asked to touch base with their local legislators in the fall to share with them your district's selection and reconsideration policies. Please also reinforce with your local legislators that parents and legal guardians have the option to manage their own children's reading options through communication with their school's teachers and librarians. (Misleading information was shared on this during the 2021 Session and local input will be the best way to correct this.) 

April 1, 2021

SB 226 substitute version was in the House Rules Committee when the General Assembly ended its 2021 session. Since this is the first year of this session, the bill may see further action in 2022.  HB 516 also rolls over; it remained in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee in 2021 but can move forward in 2022. (HB 516 duplicates the original SB 226, removing the exception for school librarians for civil and criminal penalties for distributing harmful materials to minors.) 

March 23, 2021

Duplicative, anti-local control bill calls for school boards to ignore copyright laws

Despite concerns expressed in testimony by school systems, administrative professional organizations, and GLMA, the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee passed a new substitute version of SB 226 out of committee on March 22, 2021. Changes in this substitute call for a principal or designee to review challenged materials and determine whether they meet the standard of “harmful to minors” within 7 working days. In this version, rather than moving to the superintendent on appeal, the parent or guardian would appeal directly to the school board.  If the school board determines the material to be not “harmful to minors,” this version requires the school board to post the challenged materials (images and/or text) publicly on their website within 15 days to remain there for 48 months. 

Our concerns remain that this is negating the tenet of local control whenever reasonable.  Results of a survey sent on Tuesday, March 16th by the Georgia DOE were shared on Friday, March 19th, and 107 responses from 75 school districts showed that, while some schools reported not having local policies for selection and reconsideration, all districts did have such policies. As we shared with the committee on Monday, this seems an opportunity for professional development to help schools craft policies, especially as we now have at least a part-time dedicated library media liaison at GaDOE, rather than new law. 

Vote No on SB 226

Please contact your representative and senator through this Engage platform to ask them to vote NO on SB 226. After you submit your name, address, and contact information, you will see the names of your senator and representative and a template email which we encourage you to personalize to share your status as a media specialist in Georgia and your school's and district's experiences. This bill will create a new law for a process which school districts across the state now implement under a Georgia DOE rule and with which very few problems have been reported. It also sets state-level mandates rather than afford the current local control of parties involved, time frame limits for responses, and appeals processes.

Many districts have selection and reconsideration policies which stress that library media materials should present all points of view concerning international, national and local issues. While holding firm that no parent or group of parents may determine the reading matter for students other than their own children, districts do honor the right of an individual parent or guardian to request that his/her child not be required to read, view or listen to any specific instructional material. This bill would allow parents to restrict access to materials for children other than their own.

March 11 - Call to Action

Do you know where your district policy for reconsideration of materials (aka book challenge process) is?  

It is likely linked on your school district’s online board policy page and we would like YOU to share that URL link directly with your state Representative.  Proponents of SB 226 argue that parents need a “right to be heard” bill to address the obscene materials rampant in our schools. As GLMA members, we need to inform our House members that such a requirement already exists in GaDOE rules. Unlike SB 226, our current policies provide a framework through which local districts work together to meet the needs of their community.

Have you had an issue with your students accidentally accessing obscene works in your online databases?  

According to testimony to Georgia State Senators, this is an urgent concern for parents.  If you are not having these problems, please share that with your representative as well.

What’s the fastest way to do this?  

Use the Engage platform through GLA!  When you complete the information on the first page of the platform, the House member for your home address will be located. On the second page, you will see a draft of a message already set up.  If you have a moment, please add a short message at the top of the draft stating your specific school district has policy and procedures in place to process materials challenges, and paste the link to your policy if possible. You may also consider adding that your own school has not had issues with inadvertent access to obscene materials through your research databases. 

GLMA’s goal is that House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee members will receive concerns from across the state and elect to not pass this unneeded bill from committee.  

Our understanding is that SB 226’s current wording would change book challenge decisions so that they are made solely by principals and superintendents, rather than committees of educators, leaders, parents, and community members. This change would impact classroom as well as school library materials. If you have friends who are classroom teachers and share these concerns, please share the Engage link with them as well.

If you would like more information on this bill and/or the campaign by bill proponents to control library collections, please email gaschoollibraryadvocacy@gmail.com. We will forward you materials you may use to prepare for conversations with your legislators.

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee members  (concerns regarding SB 226 - as it moved from Senate to House)

James Burchett (Chair)    james.burchett@house.ga.gov      (404) 656-5105     Waycross, GA

Bert Reeves (V Chair)       bert.reeves@house.ga.gov            (404) 651-7737     Marietta, GA

Micah Gravley                  micah.gravley@house.ga.gov        (404) 656-5025     Douglasville, GA

Mandi Ballinger               mandi.ballinger@house.ga.gov     (404) 656-7153     Canton, GA

William Boddie                william.boddie@house.ga.gov      (404) 656-0287     East Point, GA

Charlice Byrd                    charlice.byrd@house.ga.gov         (404) 656-0213     Woodstock, GA

Sharon Cooper                 sharon.cooper@house.ga.gov      (404) 656-5069     Marietta, GA

Chuck Efstration               chuck.efstration@house.ga.gov   (404) 656-5125      Dacula, GA

Dar'shun Kendrick            darshun.kendrick@house.ga.gov (404) 656-0109      Lithonia, GA

Zulma Lopez                     zulma.lopez@house.ga.gov          (404) 656-0298      Atlanta, GA

Josh McLaurin                  josh.mclaurin@house.ga.gov        (404) 656-0202      Atlanta, GA

Martin Momtahan            martin.momtahan@house.ga.gov (404) 656-0178     Dallas, GA

Steven Sainz                     steven.sainz@house.ga.gov           (404) 656-0178     Woodbine, GA

Ed Setzler                         ed.setzler@house.ga.gov               (404) 656-5143     Acworth, GA

Tyler Paul Smith               tyler.smith@house.ga.gov              (404) 657-1803     Bremen, GA

March 6th- Call to Action

PLEASE take a moment to send an email through Engage by Sunday, March 7th to let your Georgia Senator know that you oppose SB 226!  The volume of emails trumps variety with the fast turnaround we need for this bill!

The SB 226 substitute is scheduled for a vote on the Georgia Senate floor on Monday, March 8th. In this substitute version, new state code would be created for a process that already exists in our state DOE rules. Changes include principals and superintendents serving as sole arbiters in materials reconsideration (challenge) rather than the current process involving a committee of educators and parents. Other elements of the process now set by local districts would be codified at the state level, moving away from local control and accountability.

If this bill does not pass on Monday, it will not move further this year in the General Assembly. Our goal is that it does not move from the Senate on Monday. This would allow time for us to share with our legislators across the state details on how the reconsideration process works currently with committees AND that research databases are not the root cause of the sex trafficking industry, as claimed by proponents of this bill.

Support from the Georgia Library Association has been critical in efforts to address HB 226. Through GLA, we now have access to the Engage platform, through which you can enter your contact information, verify (and edit, if desired) a message, and send your legislator an email in a few minutes. GLA has set the parameters for this message so it will be sent only to the Georgia Senator who serves the district for the home address you enter.

If you are interested in further information and would like to be involved in the effort to provide factual and/or anecdotal information to our legislators, please contact gaschoollibraryadvocacy@gmail.com 

March 5, 2021 -Advocacy Update

A substitute version of Senate Bill 226 was passed from the Senate Judiciary Committee and moved to the Senate Rules Committee. If the bill passes from Rules this afternoon, it will move to the Senate floor for a vote on Monday as that is crossover day (by which a bill must pass to remain in consideration this year).  This substitute creates in state code a process that already exists in our state DOE rules except that it sets the principal and superintendent as arbiters in the reconsideration process rather than the current process of a committee of educators and parents. 

 

GLMA has concerns about these changes and would like to have time to update Georgia legislators about the advantages of the current system before the bill is brought to a vote. We are working with the Georgia Library Association to expedite our ability to message members' legislators quickly so PLEASE check your email on Saturday morning for an update on whether we will need rapid turnaround on this issue.

February 25, 2021

Call to action- Bills to Criminalize School Librarians: “Distribution of Harmful Materials to Minors”

HB 516 and SB 226 are currently assigned to their respective body’s judiciary committees for consideration. Both bills seek to revise Georgia Code to remove school libraries from the library exception to criminal prosecution for “distribution of harmful materials to minors.” This is a simplified version of a bill last year which did not pass out of the committee, and our goal is that these two bills also remain in committee this year. Both bills propose to move the word “school” from this section:

§ 16-12-104. Library exception

The provisions of Code Section 16-12-103 shall not apply to any public library operated by the state or any of its political subdivisions nor to any library operated as a part of any school, college, or university.

 

Please email, call, or otherwise contact members of the House and Senate committees to which these bills are now assigned (listed below), and ask them to not pass this bill onto the floor. You may identify yourself as a school librarian, member of GLMA, and constituent in their district if that applies (or friend/family of constituent who may also contact them). You do not need to contact your own legislators now unless they are on one of these committees or you have an existing relationship and you want to be proactive.

If you elect to call, please remember to do so outside your working hours and from a personal phone. If you email, please do not use your school email account and also send the email outside school hours. You may identify the school or district in which you work to establish credibility but provide your home address and phone number if requested.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact any Advocacy Coordinator; Nan Brown (nantbrown@gmail.com), Amanda Lee (amandalee0429@gmail.com) or Erin Baker (erindon@bellsouth.net)

House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee members (refer to House Bill 516)

James Burchett (Chair)    james.burchett@house.ga.gov      (404) 656-5105     Waycross, GA

Bert Reeves (V Chair)       bert.reeves@house.ga.gov            (404) 651-7737     Marietta, GA

Micah Gravley                  micah.gravley@house.ga.gov        (404) 656-5025     Douglasville, GA

Mandi Ballinger               mandi.ballinger@house.ga.gov     (404) 656-7153     Canton, GA

William Boddie                william.boddie@house.ga.gov      (404) 656-0287     East Point, GA

Charlice Byrd                    charlice.byrd@house.ga.gov         (404) 656-0213     Woodstock, GA

Sharon Cooper                 sharon.cooper@house.ga.gov      (404) 656-5069     Marietta, GA

Chuck Efstration               chuck.efstration@house.ga.gov   (404) 656-5125      Dacula, GA

Dar'shun Kendrick            darshun.kendrick@house.ga.gov (404) 656-0109      Lithonia, GA

Zulma Lopez                     zulma.lopez@house.ga.gov          (404) 656-0298      Atlanta, GA

Josh McLaurin                  josh.mclaurin@house.ga.gov        (404) 656-0202      Atlanta, GA

Martin Momtahan            martin.momtahan@house.ga.gov (404) 656-0178     Dallas, GA

Steven Sainz                     steven.sainz@house.ga.gov           (404) 656-0178     Woodbine, GA

Ed Setzler                         ed.setzler@house.ga.gov               (404) 656-5143     Acworth, GA

Tyler Paul Smith               tyler.smith@house.ga.gov              (404) 657-1803     Bremen, GA

Senate Judiciary Committee (refer to Senate Bill 226)

Brian Strickland (chair)      brian.strickland@senate.ga.gov   (404) 463-6598     McDonough, GA

Bill Cowsert (v-chair)         bill.cowsert@senate.ga.gov          (404) 463-1366     Athens, GA

John Kennedy                   john.kennedy@senate.ga.gov      (404) 656-0045     Macon, GA

Bo Hatchett                       bo.hatchett@senate.ga.gov         (404) 656-7454     Cornelia, GA

Harold Jones II                  harold.jones@senate.ga.gov        (404) 656-0036     Augusta, GA

Kay Kirkpatrick                   kay.kirkpatrick@senate.ga.gov     (404) 656-3932    Marietta, GA

Elena Parent                      elena.parent@senate.ga.gov        (404) 656-5109    Atlanta, GA

Michael 'Doc' Rhett          michael.rhett@senate.ga.gov       (404) 656-0054    Marietta, GA

Blake Tillery                       blake.tillery@senate.ga.gov          (404) 656-5038    Vidalia , GA

Ben Watson                       ben.watson@senate.ga.gov          (404) 656-7880    Savannah, GA

Should you opt to call their offices, you will almost certainly speak with a staffer (who often will be assigned to multiple people) rather than the legislator him/herself. Identify yourself, that you would like to leave a message for the specific member in his/her role on the Judiciary Committee, the bill number, and that as a library media specialist in Georgia you oppose passage of this bill out of committee. You may add that your opposition is based on the fact that the bill would criminalize “distribution of harmful materials to minors” and any personal opinion you have about the subject nature of this and censorship. (See state regulations below regarding selection and reconsideration policies already required of all schools and districts.)

If you would prefer to email, you may provide as much information as you wish but it will improve credibility to identify yourself as a library media specialist in a specific school district at least. (Hearing from Georgia residents obviously has more impact on legislators.) Share some variation of this message:

Dear Representative/Senator XXX,

My name is XXX and I have been a library media specialist/teacher librarian/xxx in Georgia for XX years (and/or am now a LMS/TL at XXX School/in XXX school district). I am also a member of Georgia Library Media Association and through this group have learned that HB/SB XXX is currently under consideration in your committee.

I am very concerned/ troubled/synonym about HB/SB which would remove school librarians from the criminal exception to Georgia code related to “distribution of harmful materials to minors.” I ask that you do NOT pass this bill from your committee as local school districts are already required to have a process for reconsideration of materials in their school libraries, with appeals through local districts and the state Board of Education. (Personalize here if you’d like)

Thank you for your time/consideration/etc

Signature

 

State of Georgia Rule 160-4-4-.01 Media Programs

Requirements:

(a) Each local board of education shall adopt a media policy that

1. Provides for the establishment of a media committee at the system level and at each school.

2. Requires development of procedures for the school system and for

(i) Selecting materials locally,

(ii) Handling requests for reconsideration of materials,

(iii) Considering gifts of instructional resources,

(iv) Using non-school owned materials,

(v) Complying with copyright law.