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04/14/2024 12:58 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20230&cosponId=41071
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: June 22, 2023 09:30 AM
From: Representative Paul Friel
To: All House members
Subject: Freedom to Read Act
 
Over the last several years we have seen a heighted public focus on the nature of the books and other educational resources in our school libraries, with a significant increase in the frequency of book challenges and calls for the school wide removal of educational resources and curriculum. This trend toward book challenges has placed a new burden on the affected school districts, often diverting time and energy that would otherwise be directed toward supporting and improving the education of students.

The political and cultural drivers of this phenomenon are complex, but we can all recognize two key values:
1. Students have the right to access the widest possible range of age-appropriate books and other educational resources.
2.  Parents have the right to determine that their child should be excused from curriculum and educational resources that would violate their beliefs.

To state it plainly, first amendment rights must be guarded for the student body even in cases where certain parents, community members, or school officials disapprove of the book. In Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District v. Pico, the Court noted that removal of books is constitutionally permitted only if it is done based on the educational appropriateness of the book, not because it was intended to deny students access to books with which school officials disagree.

Additionally, we recognize that there must be an appeals process in an instance where there are calls for removal or restriction of a book or educational resource because the educational value or age appropriateness of the material is in question.  This legislation seeks to provide a more uniform and efficient process for those appeals, placing the responsibility for those reviews with a regional committee of instructional experts. This committee should include a cross section of qualified local teachers, librarians, principals, and administrators. This will allow for greater effectiveness of review, decrease hyper-politization, and relieve the administrative burden on the local school districts.

Please join me in supporting this legislation to help protect the first amendment rights of our students and families and support our local school districts in their educational missions.
 
 



Introduced as HB1506