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State lawmakers are debating several bills related to public school libraries

Banned Books
Ted Shaffrey
Banned books are visible at the Central Library, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system, in New York City on Thursday, July 7, 2022. The books are banned in several public schools and libraries in the U.S.

Public school libraries are the focus of several bills in the General Assembly this year.

Republicans want to set up a system notifying parents when their children have checked out a book from the school library. They want to create a system of identifying sexually explicit content. And they want model policies for school libraries to know which content is OK to put in the collection and which content is not.

"What's been happening in the last few years with content and libraries has been not necessarily based on challenging specifically on LGTBQ themes but more just the graphic nature of it," says Delegate Tara Durant, a Republican from Stafford County.

Delegate Karrie Delaney is a Democrat from Fairfax County who introduced a bill that would have prevented books from being removed from school libraries specifically because they have gay characters or Black characters.

"It is, I think, going to answer the question that's often asked of those who are looking for the increase in restrictions to say, ‘Well, isn't this a challenge against the LGTBQ community?’ And passing this bill would give the opportunity to say, ‘No it's not,’" says Delaney.

House Republicans rejected that bill, and Senate Democrats say they're ready to reject the Republican bills as soon as they get the chance next month.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.