House Bill 900, which would set new standards for school libraries to keep sexually explicit content off bookshelves, is heading to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Librarians, legal experts and some parents are concerned that the bill’s language is vague and broad enough to ensnare books that are not inappropriate.
“House Bill 900 is simply another tool that we as a state can use to do all that we can do in our communities and in our schools to address harmful sexually explicit material,” state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, said on the Senate floor Tuesday night.
The upper chamber formally approved the bill with a 19-12 vote along party lines just before midnight Tuesday. Without any changes to the legislation, HB 900 is now on its way to the the governor. Abbott’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment regarding his support for the legislation.
Bill author Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, tweeted Sunday that Paxton, the Senate sponsor, assured him that the Senate version would match the House version for quick approval. HB 900 still needs final approval from the chamber before it can be sent to the governor.
If HB 900 passes into law, book vendors would have to assign ratings to books based on the presence of depictions or references to sex. A book would get a “sexually relevant” rating if the material describes or portrays sexual activity and is part of the required school curriculum. A book would get a “sexually explicit” rating if the material describing or portraying sexual behavior is “patently offensive” and not part of required curriculum.