Committee on Education and the Workforce holds hearing on 'Combating Graphic, Explicit Content in School Libraries'

'A generation of kids needs us to stop being divided over sexuality and stand up for the innocence of their minds,' said another witness, a concerned mother.

One witness spoke of a sexual abuse survivor's daughter being bullied by her teacher for her discomfort with an explicit assigned book.

The Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on “Combating Graphic, Explicit Content in School Libraries” today.

The chairman of the hearing was Aaron Bean, a Republican from Florida, and the witnesses were Mrs. Lindsey Smith, a parent; Dr. Jonathan Friedman, the Director of Free Expression and Education Programs at PEN America; Mr. Max Eden, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Mrs. Megan Degenfelder, the superintendent of the Wyoming Department of Education.

Bean gave the opening statement. “Like every flashpoint in America’s culture war, the media has distorted the truth and fueled public outrage and discontent,” he said. “Today, the Committee will set the record straight for the American people: inappropriate books are in school libraries, and local communities are within their rights to remove them.”

Bean countered the misconception that those against explicit content in schools targeted content with homosexual themes, stating that “seven of the 10 most frequently removed books feature explicit heterosexual content.”

Smith then gave a statement to the committee regarding her beliefs about the state of modern education. 

“It is time for us to be adults and leave the sexually explicit books out of schools and refocus our attention on the failing of our schools to our children in regards to reading, writing and mathematics,” Smith said. “A generation of kids needs us to stop being divided over sexuality and stand up for the innocence of their minds.”

“Parent representatives from all different walks of life should be a part of committees that review books,” Smith continued. “One of the things we have seen since we started to speak up at the board of education at our local level is the ability for parents to review and leave comments on all books in que for the library for 30 days.”

“This gives them a voice in the material, and lets parents be a check and balance on what is coming into schools. The parents are advocates for their kids; we shouldn’t be silencing them but rather refocusing on the innocence of children.”

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Friedman gave the next statement, telling the court that he is “here today because the freedoms to read, learn, and think are in increasing jeopardy.”

“State laws are being passed to restrict what can be taught and learned,” he continued. “Professionals who have committed their careers to public education are self-censoring, operating in a climate of intimidation and fear. Books are being banned with little concern for the students and families being affected.”

“The disagreements about policy, law, or culture that have brought us here today are not actually over this fundamental vision of freedom. They’re about who holds the power to define the limits of these freedoms for the rising generation.”

Eden took a strong stance in his statement, saying“If you’re a school board member that thinks that maybe school libraries don’t need reference to performing oral sex on anuses, then be prepared for the Biden administration to come down hard on your district,” he said.

He referenced Friedman’s organization specifically when he continued, “[a]nd if you’re a mom who thinks that performing oral sex on anuses is inappropriate material for school library, then be prepared for some leftwing organization like PEN America to suggest that you are kind of akin to a Nazi.”

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“Why is it, exactly, that leftwing non-profits, the media, and the Biden administration are so keen to enforce stocking school libraries with pornographic material? They each have their reasons, I’m sure,” he concluded. “But one thing is certain: it’s perfectly natural, normal, and responsible for parents to prefer that school districts not stock their libraries with pornographic material. And it’s good for school board members to meet the moral preferences of parents.”

Degenfelder gave the final witness statement. “Many Wyoming parents are working full-time jobs, sometimes multiple jobs, while also full-time parenting. Single parents are doing everything they can just to keep their heads above water,” she began. “But all parents should feel peace when their child gets on that school bus or leaves the car at their public school drop off. They should trust that their child’s school is going to be a productive and safe place to learn, free from undue influence.”

She told the story of a woman whose daughter had been assigned to read a book that made her uncomfortable. The woman read through the book, which, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, she found upsetting, and worried that the book might cause students to see sexual abuse as normal.

According to Degenfelder’s story, The woman approached her daughter’s teacher to ask if her daughter could read an alternative book for that particular unit, sparking several students to also proclaim that they, too, were uncomfortable with the material. The teacher then relentlessly bullied the woman’s daughter, pushing her to fear attending school.

“Our public schools are under more scrutiny than ever before - and for good reason. Declining academic performance, deteriorating student discipline, political influences, and inappropriate sexualization are all real and serious problems,” Degenfelder concluded. “ I, for one, will never stop fighting for the safety of Wyoming’s children.”

Campus Reform has reached out to Bean, Smith, Friedman, Eden, and Degenfelder for comment and will update the story accordingly. A representative for Friedman said that he “has no further comment on his statement,” and Elissa Tew, a representative for Bean, redirected Campus Reform to a press release containing Bean’s full statement.