A legislative committee voted Monday to reject a bill that would have required teachers to notify parents and students before using sexually explicit materials in classrooms.

Rep. Amy Bradstreet Arata, R-New Gloucester, proposed the measure after taking offense to the explicit descriptions of sexual activity contained in “Kafka on the Shore,” a Haruki Murakami novel assigned to her son while he was in the 12th grade. But opponents raised concerns about the Legislature heading down a slippery slope toward the type of censorship that led to bans on books now considered works of literature.

Arata’s initial proposal would have removed public schools from the list of institutions – such as libraries or museums – that are exempt from the law prohibiting the dissemination of obscene materials to minors. After encountering pushback from teachers and others, Arata changed her proposal to require teachers to notify parents and students in writing about obscene content or depictions of sexual assault in books, films or other materials.

Parents or students could then opt out of reading or viewing the materials under Arata’s amended proposal. But her bill, L.D. 94, would still allow teachers to be prosecuted criminally for failing to notify students and parents – a prospect that bothered both Democrats and Republicans on the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The committee ultimately voted unanimously Monday morning to reject the bill.

Arata indicated Monday that she could seek authorization from legislative leaders to introduce an after-deadline bill that would seek to address the issue without making it a criminal offense.

“Whatever happens, I want it to be very clear to the rest of the Legislature that this is an important issue, that I brought awareness about this issue and we should continue to pursue it,” Arata said.

 


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