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Tennessee Republicans introduce bills aiming to increase oversight of educational material in public schools

Three bills the Tennessee Republicans say will increase oversight and transparency of educational materials in Tennessee public schools advanced through subcommittees this week. 

House Bill 2154, also known as the Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022, would require local education agencies and public charter schools to adopt a policy for developing and reviewing school library collections that include factors such as the age and maturity of students. The legislation would also require a procedure to receive and evaluate feedback about materials in the library as well as periodically review materials in the collection. A current list of materials in each school’s library collection must also be posted on the school’s website. 

“Our goal in general in education is to have parents, teachers, students and administration within different communities to all be working together to make sure our children get a great education,” Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, said in the House K-12 Subcommittee on Tuesday. “Part of that is making sure the materials in the library at school are appropriate for the age level and maturity level of the children that are accessing those materials, and that they are helpful to them receiving a great education. We don’t have a process like this in place right now.” 

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The bill would still allow local school boards and public charter schools to decide what is best for the students in their own communities, Lamberth added. 

The Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022 now heads to the full House K-12 Subcommittee for consideration. If approved, the legislation would take effect beginning with the 2022-23 school year. More information about House Bill 2154 can be found here

Members of the House Education Instruction Subcommittee advanced two additional bills this week aimed at increasing transparency and oversight of instructional materials and literature used in public schools. The legislation includes: 

  • House Bill 2666, as amended, would require the state’s textbook and instructional materials quality commission to identify and remove all materials contained within public schools and public charter schools that are harmful to minors as defined by existing state law. The commission would also have the authority to review new books and other new materials made available in the libraries of those schools to ensure they are “appropriate for the age and maturity levels” of students and that they align with the educational mission of each school. The legislation will now head to the full House Education Instruction Committee for consideration. More information about the bill can be found here
  • House Bill 1723 would allow a parent or legal guardian of a student to check out from their school one set of the instructional materials used in the student’s classroom for a period of no less than 48 hours to allow time to review the materials. The materials could also be made available online. The legislation will now go to the full House Education Instruction Committee for consideration. More information about the bill can be found here
  • House Bill 1944 would prohibit a local education agency or public charter school from allowing obscene material or materials harmful to minors to be available to students in school. House Bill 1944 was presentenced in Criminal Justice Subcommittee this week and is expected to be taken back up by the committee on March 2. Information about House Bill 1944 can be found here.  

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