In the last Legislative session, Senators Mike Azinger and Vince Deeds introduced Senate Bill 252 in an effort to control “obscene material” that has appeared in libraries across the state. The bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This issue has been in the public light in Wood County since last November. The school system there says it has addressed the specific titles, but questions remain on how these titles ever entered the school and public libraries. The issue has been debated at the City Council and School Board levels in Wood County. Advocacy groups calling for a change to the availability of this content say they have also confirmed the availability of this material in Monongalia, Marion, Harrison, and Summers counties.
For those that are raising objections to the material their message is clear that everyone should not have access to explicit content, children should be protected, and libraries must take accountability for exposing children to sexually explicit material.
The counterargument to removing or restricting books with sexually explicit material calls taking action a “slippery slope” and says banning any materials can have dire consequences.
Brian Raits, Director of Parkersburg Wood County Public Library told WTAP in November that he
“did not want to put myself in a position or any other group to decide what is right for your child. The best person to make that decision is the parent, not me, not some other group.” Brian Raits, Wood county library
US Senate Candidate Chris Rose says that action needs to be taken now to protect the sexualizing of children and to enforce laws that are meant to protect children from obscene material.
“Jim Justice needs to put primary election politics aside and use the power of his current office to protect the children of West Virginia,” Rose said.
“These issues should be added to the next special session, parents shouldn’t have to worry about what their children are being exposed to at schools and libraries.” Chris Rose, Candidate for US Senate
The exposure of children to sexually explicit material is a valid concern. WV Statewide News was provided with photos and excerpts from several titles that were found in Wood County Schools. Those works targeted at young students contained detailed instructions and suggestions for sex acts, stories of oral sex with children as young as six years old, and advocating for young readers to watch and buy porn.
Excerpts from these books can be seen here.
WARNING: THE IMAGES ARE GRAPHIC AND NOT INTENDED FOR MINORS.
While the debate for censorship generally can be divisive, current West Virginia law Chapter 61, Article 8A makes it illegal to exhibit obscene material to minors. The argument can be made that parents are not acutely aware of the existence of this content because they rely on the current law to ensure sexually explicit material is not being exhibited in traditionally safe places like schools and libraries.
Organizations such as the Wood County Board of Education and Library System do have a method for challenging the appropriateness of these works. Below are responses from both the schools and library officials who ultimately rejected the challenges.
Other states have taken action to limit obscene materials from public schools and libraries. Florida Governor Ron Desantis made headlines by directly addressing this issue with executive orders. West Virginia has not taken any such action.
SOURCE: PRESENTATION PROVIDED BY MOVCAC (WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT)