AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, R-Peoria, speaks during the opening of the Arizona Legislature at the state Capitol Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Phoenix.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool

“If we can’t trust librarians and our teachers to find and use suitable materials, then our public schools are hopelessly broken.”

A bill requiring public review of all school library books has passed its first hearing in the Arizona Senate.

House Bill 2439 would establish parental review for books that are approved for school libraries, requiring schools to post the list of newly purchased books on their websites for at least 60 days after approval. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, R-Peoria, also would require schools to notify parents seven days before the public review period.

The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday approved the bill 5-3 along party lines. As of Wednesday, it had not been scheduled for another vote.

During the bill’s committee hearing, Pingerelli said her intent is not to censor what kids learn.

“My intent on this bill is to give transparency for parents and so they know what books are coming, new, into a library,” she said. “This is actually giving local control. If parents have an issue with anything that is being purchased in the library, they have an ability to speak to their governing board.”

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The bill comes as legislatures across the country are passing laws to expand parental oversight of what is taught in schools. Many states have moved to ban or restrict any curriculum that has to do with teaching about sexuality or race relations, including “instruction that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex,” according to another bill making its way through the Arizona Legislature.

Alicia Messing, a special education teacher and parent, spoke against the bill Tuesday, calling it a means to censor or to push certain ideologies.

“We have a moral obligation to protect Arizona’s children from censorship and the indoctrination of ideas into a one size fits all mentality,” Messing said. “If we can’t trust librarians and our teachers to find and use suitable materials, then our public schools are hopelessly broken.”

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Arizona statutes already allow parents who object to any kind of curriculum or material to withdraw their children from that instruction.

An exception to HB 2439 includes schools that don’t have a full-time librarian or media specialist.

Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Paradise Valley, voted against the bill. A former teacher, she emphasized the strain the bill could potentially have on underfunded and understaffed schools.

“This adds another layer of time and energy that just isn’t in our schools right now,” Marsh said. “Not with the teacher shortage, not with the sub shortage, not with almost every day being all hands on deck.”

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