Missouri librarians sue over state law that bans ‘sexually explicit materials’ from schools News
Missouri librarians sue over state law that bans ‘sexually explicit materials’ from schools

The ACLU of Missouri and two state librarian associations Thursday sued state prosecutors over a state law that bans “sexually explicit materials” from public schools and libraries, arguing that the law violates the state constitution. The case is in the Circuit Court of Jackson County.

The plaintiffs filed a petition for injunctive and declaratory relief over Missouri Revised Statute § 573.550, which became law in June 2022. The petition asserts that the law violates Article I Sections Eight and Ten of the Missouri Constitution for being vague and overbroad. Accordingly, the petition requests the court to enter a declaratory judgment that the law is facially unconstitutional and unenforceable. In the alternative, the petition requests that the court enter a declaratory judgment that defines the law and clarifies how and when it applies.

In response to the petition, Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair for 2022 Joe Kohlburn stated:

The law presents specific peril for school librarians, but also endangers the work and livelihoods of public and academic librarians who work with K-12 schools in various capacities. Librarians of all types are thoughtful, careful, and principled professionals who are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring access to information and collections, and providing collections that reflect a broad range of perspectives and life experiences. Librarians have been undermined politically in this state for long enough, and the fear of prosecution is an ongoing issue for keeping qualified professionals in Missouri, as well as bringing new people into the profession.

The law imposes criminal penalties on librarians and school officials for violations. According to the petition, the law has caused the removal of “hundreds of titles from library and classroom shelves.” Some removed titles include Holocaust history books, human anatomy books, and books authored by minorities. Additionally, some titles have been removed despite passing a “school-board approved selection criteria.”