Governor Brian Kemp is traveling to Forsyth County, Georgia, on Thursday, where he will sign into law the first book ban bill in the state. Senate Bill 226 would put the power of book review and approval away from trained professionals and into the hands of school boards. This is a tremendous overstep of power for school boards, whose role is to govern, not manage, school policy.
SB 226 requires principals review all complaints about books from parents within seven days. Three additional days are allotted for the principal to determine whether or not to pull the book. From there, the school board has 30 days to handle any appeals of the decision and post all titles on the school’s website that were removed from the library within 15 days of the decision.
All schools will be required to develop complaint policies by January 1, with help provided by the Department of Education, who will have a model policy ready by September 1.
This bill removes local power from schools and from trained and qualified professionals within the school. Further, the expedited timeline under which principals must make a determination of a book’s inclusion in the library will lead to quick decision making–and decision making likely to be driven not by sound professional judgment but on potential response from parents or the school board. It is also a colossal waste of taxpayer money.
Putting the power of determining a model policy into the hands of the state eduction department in red states has led to regressive and conservative influence, as seen in Texas. Requiring districts to post lists of books pulled from collections will add more titles for censor-friendly groups to direct complaints about across the state and country.
Kemp’s decision to sign this bill in Forsyth County is no coincidence. Forsyth has a long history of censorship, including recent decisions to overhaul their collection development policies and complaint policies, as well as to remove several books from its collection. The same county saw a rise in censorship-friendly community members in the mid-90s, both in the schools and in the public library.
SB 226 passed along party lines in the state. The bill’s passage will likely create similar bills across the nation.