ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
SB 7 (PN 1174) would establish a new section in the Public School Code to require the governing body of a school entity to develop a policy to provide parental control of instructional materials and books containing "sexually explicit" content. “School entity” includes a school district, intermediate unit, joint school, area career and technical school, charter school, regional charter school or cyber charter school.
SB 7 would require schools to:
- Identify specific instructional materials and books that are used or made available to students that contain sexually explicit material.
- Implement the use of an opt-in form which prohibits a student from being provided or having access to sexually explicit materials unless a parent has signed and returned the opt-in form providing their permission.
- Include specific language in the opt-in form that acknowledges the parent is providing permission to view sexually explicit materials and a list of book titles and materials scheduled to be used as part of the curriculum, class discussion or made available in the school that meet the definition of sexually explicit.
- Permit a student’s parent or legal guardian to review the instructional materials or books containing sexually explicit content upon request.
- Provide alternative, non-explicit instructional materials and related activities if the parent does not provide permission to view sexually explicit material or has not submitted the opt-in form.
- Seek input at a public forum prior to adoption of the policy to ensure it meets the requirements provided in the legislation.
SB 7 includes no clear definition “sexually explicit" content, which will likely lead schools to err on the side of caution, resulting in a wide swathe of books being preemptively banned from curricula. In particular, the materials most likely to be banned are those that explore gender identity and sexual orientation, and the students who need access to them the most—LQBTQIA+ youth—are often the ones whose parents are denying them and their communities the right to learn from these books.
Furthermore, the onerous process to identify books that may violate the policy, get a book reviewed at a public hearing, obtain parental consent, and to craft innumerable alternative curricula will divert educators from their primary priority—their work with students. Instead, educators will be forced to spend their time searching through thousands of volumes to find a single word or phrase that might offend a parent, regardless of the merit or popularity of the book, ignoring two decades of court decisions that have rejected this form of censorship.
Check the bill's status here.