(The Center Square) – The Texas Senate passed the READER Act on Thursday, a bill banning sexually explicit books from being in public school and classroom libraries.
The bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it.
After the bill passed the Senate, its sponsor, Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, thanked Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, the companion bill’s sponsor, his staff and Speaker Dade Phelan “for the huge effort to get a clean bill across the finish line.”
Paxton tweeted that the bill will protect “children from sexually explicit materials in school libraries.”
HB 900, a legislative priority of Phelan, R-Beaumont, received bipartisan support when it passed the House by a vote of 95 to 52. Patterson began the process of addressing sexually explicit materials in public schools 18 months ago, he said in a statement, which led to a bipartisan group of state legislators supporting the bill.
When debating the bill on the floor last month, he said in response to some Democrats’ opposition, that there was “an important lesson in actually reading the bill and understanding what it does. …
“Some people want to make this bill about something that it’s not. This bill is not about race. This bill is not about a particular author. This bill is not about slavery. This bill is not about the Civil Rights Movement. This bill is about radically sexual content in the hands of unaccompanied children in public school libraries.”
He also said, “It is embarrassing that this even has to be a law that we make as a legislative body, but this is where we are because adults will not stand up and do the right thing and take this radically explicit content out of the hands of minors.”
After the vote, he also said he was “extremely disappointed in those who voted against removing radically explicit content from the hands of Texas kids.”
Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, who opposed the bill, said Texas now would be banning “more books than any other state.”
She also referred to a report from PEN America, which claimed thousands of books have been removed from schools that include “LGBTQ+” or “of color” characters.
A Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal analysis argued, “It is simply false that 2,532 books were removed from schools during the 2021-2022 school year. We know this is false because we examined online card catalogues and found that 74% of the books PEN America identified as banned from school libraries are actually listed as available in the catalogues of those school districts. In many cases we could see that copies of those books are currently checked out and in use by students.”
Patterson and others also thanked Christin Bentley, Republican Party of Texas SREC committeewoman for District 1, a major advocate of the bill, for raising awareness about the issue through a “filthy book campaign.”
Bentley told The Center Square she started the campaign on Feb. 17 and sent copies of content of one book five days a week to every state legislator. When she launched the campaign, she sent a letter to every member of the Senate and House stating, “Inappropriate and harmful, sexually explicit materials are in Texas public school libraries, classrooms, and community libraries across the state. Local policies have largely failed to protect Texas kids from these harmful materials, and the state legislature is now tasked with solving the problem at a state level. Sexually explicit materials do not belong in Texas schools or community libraries where children can easily access them.”
She said the “sexually explicit materials include all sexual orientations; LGBTQ+ books are not being targeted or singled out.”