State Can Now Jail Violators of 'Sexually Explicit' Book Ban

Some Missouri schools might be removing "sexually explicit" reading material from library shelves after a new state law announced possible jail time for those who disobey.

Missouri SB 775, which went into effect Sunday, outlaws any books at public and private schools containing material that is considered "sexually explicit." Books that are considered artistic or informational are excluded from the law.

Law breakers are subject to being charged with a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a $2,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

Missouri Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair-Elect Tiffany Mautino told WXIX that drafts of the law didn't start out banning books.

 Law Outlaws Sexually Explicit Material in Schools
A display of banned books or censored books at Books Inc independent bookstore in Alameda, California. A Missouri law that passed Sunday outlaws "sexually explicit" materials in schools. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

"This bill was going forward and at the last second this part that would affect libraries, school libraries specifically, was added," Mautino said.

The law describes sexually explicit materials as those including photography, film, video, picture of computer-generated image showing human masturbation, sexual intercourse, direct stimulation of the genitals, sadomasochistic abuse or emphasizing the depiction of post-pubertal human genitals. Content related to science classes such as anatomy, biology and others are not subject to the law.

Missouri students are speaking out against the new law.

"This new law going into effect and this stuff happening within my own school are setting up my generation for failure," Keturah Flockstra, a junior at Nixa High School in Nixa, told WXIX. She said she has fought with her district's school board against restrictive policies such as SB 775 for months.

Nixa Public Schools released the following statement: "We are currently reviewing the impact the new law will have on any materials in our district. We will be reviewing materials on a case-by-case basis as questions arise from parents or staff."

The Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) released a statement on its website encouraging educators and school librarians to familiarize themselves with the law.

"School librarians are encouraged to consult with their administration and Board of Education for guidance with regard to school library materials on the basis of SB775," the statement said.

MASL also advised librarians on how to proceed if faced with book challenges at school.

"MASL stands with all school librarians," the statement said. "We understand the immense impact of facing a challenge and will support our librarians to preserve intellectual freedom."

It is not the first time Missouri has made headlines in regard to banning certain content. This year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of two minors against the Wentzville School District, which had removed eight books from school shelves.