by Isabela Gamez/UA Don Bolles fellow, Arizona Mirror
Republican lawmakers say there’s no place for sexual books in schools, but critics of a law proposed in the Arizona Senate argue that the bill could lead to the marginalization of transgender and gender fluid students.
“This bill would heavily impact sexual education in our schools even if that’s not the intent of the sponsor. It would ban necessary discussions on reproductive health, romantics, sexual relationships and so much more,” Elijah Watson told the senate education committee.
Senate Bill 1700 would ban books that are sexual, promote gender fluidity or gender pronouns or “groom children into normalizing pedophilia.” The end result may be banning well-known and beloved books.
Under the bill’s provisions, the Arizona Department of Education is required to create rules and procedures for establishing and maintaining a list of books that public schools in Arizona may not use or make available to students, along with procedures for parents to submit books to be included on the list.
“The bill could put a ban on some of the most beloved and iconic pieces of literature in our public schools. Books such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘The Color Purple,’ ‘The Great Gatsby,’ ‘Of Mice and Men’ — all of these books contain themes that could be deemed as lewd or sexual but give incredible insight to the human experience,” said Watson.
Sen. Justine Wadsack, the Tucson Republican who introduced the bill, argued before the Senate Education Committee that the bill “is not about a disagreement as to whether the book is likable or not, it’s about if it’s describing sexual acts, masturbation or private parts.”
Some steps toward book prohibition in Arizona schools have already been implemented.
This includes a 2022 law to ban books that reference or use sexually explicit material without consent from parents that went into effect on Sept. 24, 2022.
Anastasia Tsakis, a real estate agent who’s running for the Vail School District governing board, argued that “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” should be taken out of the curriculum because it contains descriptions or references to masturbation.
Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, a Tucson Democrat and a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribal nation, responded to Tsakis’ comment explaining that she reads the book to her grandchildren. The book was written by Sherman Alexie, an accomplished Native American writer and Gonzalez said “there’s nothing wrong with children reading that book.”
This bill passed through the Republican-controlled committee by a vote of 4-3, along party lines. It heads next to the full Senate for consideration.
This story was written by Isabela Gamez, a fellow at the the University of Arizona School of Journalism’s Don Bolles Fellow and contributor to the Arizona Mirror, where this story first appeared.
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