ATLANTA — Two bills are making their way through the Georgia State Senate, and both pieces of legislation are sponsored by Republican lawmakers. First, SB390 would loosen restrictions on librarian certification and cut funding to any programs tied to the American Library Association. Twenty-two GOP state senators are behind the bill. The ALA is the only group that can accredit librarians in the state of Georgia, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Supporters of SB390 say ALA’s leadership believes in “Marxist” ideology and taxpayers should not have to support them. Another portion of the bill states ALA has used its certification process to promote its political beliefs.
ALA sent 11Alive the following statement in response:
ALA is closely following Georgia Senate Bill 390 and is working to obtain more information about the proposed legislation. We remain committed to ALA’s mission of providing essential support, resources, and opportunities for every library and all library workers across the nation to ensure that every person and community has access to a library that provides free and unfettered access to a wide range of information that benefits all community members.
Another bill, SB394, would require the state board of education to establish standards for school books, as well as define what material might be construed as “harmful to minors, restricted materials, and sexually explicit.” The bill calls for a ratings system to be implemented to determine how explicit a book may be. These standards would be updated on an annual basis if the bill passes.
State Sen. John F. Kennedy is a sponsor of both bills. Earlier this week, he addressed media at the state Capitol on some of the legislation Republicans would promote in the weeks ahead.
“Our priorities reflect the issues that Georgians are focused on,” Kennedy said. “Our members are committed to delivering on good, common-sense policies for Georgia families. We will tackle what matters to Georgians, kitchen table issues, with an aim to keep Georgia on track to be the best state to live, work and raise a family.”
Tracey Nance is a former Georgia Teacher of the Year. She opposes both bills, calling them an attack on civil liberties that put Georgians’ identities, experiences and access to information at risk. Nance said these efforts follow other efforts to try and ban books in Georgia schools.
“These bills seek to intimidate rather than to teach,” Nance said. “If you’ve ever deeply connected with a book and found yourself experiencing that representation, that sense of belonging, books do that for us. And these bills, themselves, they’re threatening to take that away from our kids.”
Decatur High School sophomore Nia Batra fears the passage of these bills could mean the very books she grew up with could no longer be found in her school library.
“I’m Asian and queer myself,” Batra said. “I really needed those books growing up, and with a bill like this and its vague language, those books are going to be the first that educators take off the shelves in fear of prosecution. I really wish politicians would focus on what my peers actually need, like appropriate funding and counseling services.”
Rhonda Thomas, founder and president of the nonprofit Truth in Education, supports both bills. She said the inappropriate material found in some library books could lead to mental health issues and violent behavior.
“We want to protect those children that are too young to really process this,” Thomas said. “We’ve talked to librarians across the state, teachers and school board members. They’re not all happy with this.”
Thomas claims since these books can be found anywhere, removing them from K-12 bookshelves won’t prevent kids from reading books that would be deemed inappropriate.
“Our children are a gift,” Thomas said. “We need to protect them from what’s out there that’s actually seeking to harm them. Why would we not want the best for our children? Why would we not want them to be safe and protected?”
If passed, both pieces of legislation would take effect on July 1, 2025.