LANDRY: About Those Library Books (And Senator Heather Cloud's SB7)
Roughly nine months ago, the Louisiana Department of Justice began receiving calls from both parents and librarians concerned about sexually-explicit materials designed for minor children that were easily accessible in our public libraries. Our subsequent investigation discovered library materials that involved graphic illustrations of young adults engaged in sexual activities, detailed descriptions and how-to guides for various sex acts, and graphic descriptions of sexual abuse perpetrated by adults on minors.
If any of these illustrations were broadcast on public television, that network would be contacted by the FCC for violating its rules. If excerpts from any of these books were read aloud on National Public Radio, they too would be contacted, immediately.
In fact, when Senator Heather Cloud had her staffers print redacted images from these books included in our Protecting Innocence report, there were legal concerns at the Capitol and fears of sexual harassment allegations – merely for printing these images, blurred by our staff, as exhibits for SB7.
Yet minor children across Louisiana can walk into their local library right now and see the unredacted images for themselves. And in forty-five of our parishes, any child can check-out these materials for further study at home.
The effects of early sexualization of children are well-known, ranging from poor mental health and isolation to relationship dysfunction and sexual violence. There is an increased risk of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and falling prey to groomers. But the biggest concern was highlighted by research done by Johns Hopkins: the vast majority of children who experience sexual abuse are abused by other children who are only a few years older.
Perhaps this is why protections have been put in place by the FCC and even streaming services like Netflix. In fact. when a parent chooses “Kids Only” content on Netflix, they often place their trust in a cataloging system on the backend of the service that separates sexually-explicit adult material from more age-appropriate options. Yet this simple system has not been properly applied to our State’s public library systems.
Senator Cloud’s bill SB7 would place parental restrictions on what a minor child can and cannot check-out from their local library, enabling parents to serve as content moderators for library material that is brought home. I support this course of action; but I also encourage parents to get involved in their child’s library experience and voice concerns about questionable content that has been given valuable shelf space within the children’s and young adult sections.
By being aware and vocal, parents can ultimately shape the catalogue available to their children so that each public library in every parish can represent the values of that area and its unique community standards. Remember: these are public spaces and they should reflect the needs of the public it serves.
That is why I have always insisted that the parents have control over this issue, ultimately deciding the appropriate time and place for their child’s exposure to sexual content and their subsequent education. SB7 gives parents that power, at least within their own homes. So I am pleased to report that the bill has passed the Education Committee with an 8-3 vote and now heads to the full House.
I am proud to have worked with concerned parents and librarians on this parental rights initiative. Together we will continue to fight for the innocence of our children and the rights of our parents. Because if innocence is not protected, what kind of world will we build?