Texas Sued over Public School Ban on Books

July 26, 2023

A coalition of booksellers, authors and publishers filed suit Tuesday seeking to block a new Texas state law that bans “sexually explicit” books from public schools. 

The suit was filed in federal court in Austin against a law passed in the Republican-led legislature in May that’s set to take effect in September. 

The law requires sellers to rate books based on references to sex. The ratings are then subject to review by the Texas Education Agency. 

Any books rated sexually explicit cannot be sold to the state’s public schools and any booksellers who do not adhere to the new law will be barred from selling books to the schools.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday asserts that the legislation violates the First Amendment because it “compels plaintiffs to express the government’s views, even if they do not agree,” and notes that the standards for what constitutes “explicit” material is unconstitutionally vague.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has said his state’s law protects children by getting “that trash out of our schools.”

The law, which Abbott signed in June, is one of several passed in GOP-controlled states seeking to restrict books that conservatives say contain age-inappropriate content on topics such as sex, LGBTQ issues and race.

The Texas lawsuit follows a suit filed by the writers’ group PEN America and others in May against a Florida school district for banning books dealing with LGBTQ and race issues. Another suit has been filed in Arkansas against a law requiring libraries and bookstores to isolate any material that could be construed as “harmful” to minors in a separate area.

A report released in March by the American Library Association (ALA) found that attempts in the U.S. to ban or restrict books reached a record high in 2022.

More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the ALA in 2022, nearly double that of 2021 and by far the most in 20 years, since the association began keeping data.

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