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Senate bill would limit legal defense for libraries over access to harmful material

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Jeanie Lindsay
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IPB News
Parents who support SB 17 cited concerns about library books children have access to, as well as books used in classrooms that they say are not appropriate for children.

Listen to the radio version of this story as it aired on Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations.

State lawmakers are considering a bill to limit the legal defense for libraries if they're prosecuted for giving children access to harmful materials. A similar bill was filed – and failed to become law – last session, but is getting more attention this year after being included in controversial school curriculum legislation. 

Senate Bill 17's language was also included in two other bills: a school curriculum bill the Senate killed and a similar bill House lawmakers approved Wednesday. That's not uncommon. Lawmakers file similar pieces of legislation to increase the chance it will become law or to attach themselves to an issue.

But SB 17 is moving forward as its own legislation, after being mentioned by some people who testified during earlier hearings this session. It essentially says if schools or public libraries share harmful or obscene material with minors, they can't legally defend themselves by saying it's for educational purposes. 

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Several parents have said they support the measure, and laid out their concerns about books their children have read in classrooms or that have been found in school libraries across the state. 

But librarians including Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library director, Vanessa Martin, worry it could limit public access to a variety of books.

"The crippling effect that Senate Bill 17 would have on librarians' ability to choose materials that best suit their entire community is what concerns me most about this bill," Martin said. 

Senate Bill 17 was approved by the education committee Wednesday along party lines. It now heads to the Senate floor ahead of a key legislative deadline for the chamber next week.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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