By Ossie Bladine • Editor • 

Locals respond to bill targeting book bans in public schools

A bill that would restrict book bans in Oregon public education is headed for a vote in the Oregon State Senate after a 3-2 party line vote advanced it out of the Senate Committee on Education last Thursday.

Senate Bill 1583, introduced by State Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland), would make it illegal for a school board, committee or officer involved in a selection process to choose or not choose books or other education materials on the basis it, “includes a perspective, study or story of, or is created by, any individual or group against whom discrimination is prohibited under ORS 659.850.”

State law currently requires that schools include instructional materials for American history and government that “adequately address” the roles of, and contributions from, men and women who are Native Americans, people of European, African, Asian, Pacific Island, Chicano, Latino, Middle Eastern or Jewish descent along with immigrants, refugees and people with disabilities or who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The proposal drew more than 700 written testimonies leading up to the committee hearing last Tuesday, including 33 from individuals in Yamhill County: 23 in opposition and 10 in support.

Much of the testimony in opposition centered on stripping school boards, and parents, of the right to local control of educational materials.

“It is not the groups that I believe parents oppose, it is the subject matters and ideas that are brought up within those books that should be debated at a local level,” wrote Christopher McLaran of McMinnville. “This bill would eliminate debate at a local level, making it more difficult for parents to feel they have some control over what their children are taught in public schools.”

Buffy Miller of McMinnville argued the state should not ultimately get to choose what is taught in schools. “The reason we have local governments is because they know what is best for the local community. The local community, parents, and school boards should have authority over school curriculum,” she wrote.

Some opponents warned the bill, if passed into law, would further convince Oregonians to take their kids out of the public school system.

“...passage of this bill will further alienate communities from participation in our public school teaching and learning and exacerbate the crisis of students and families leaving our systems in droves and bringing on an impending budget crisis,” wrote Ranee Solmonsson of Newberg.

Many also specifically targeted materials of a sexual nature.

“This bill is nothing more than an attempt to normalize indecent and inappropriate material and force it upon school districts that wish to maintain age appropriate materials for their students,” wrote David Klaus of Newberg.

A common argument in favor of the bill was that it would bring much needed clarity to the issue and help school boards avoid having to tie up resources with attempted book bans.

“SB1583 further protects schools and school boards from unnecessary, unconstitutional, and time-consuming responses to challenges to materials that are clearly discriminatory in nature,” wrote Steve Silver of McMinnville. “Help our volunteer school boards and the administrators they hire focus on the work of providing a quality education for our students, and not waste their precious time dealing with a vocal minority’s attempts to silence viewpoints.”

Korie Buerkle of Newberg also argued that clarity brought from the bill would protect against discriminatory challenges.

“We have seen how the viewpoints of protected classes, especially those of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation, are often neglected, pushed aside, or completely ignored,” Buerkle wrote. “This bill would protect the right of all parents and guardians for their children to have access to the spectrum of human experience at their school.”

The bill received myriad letters of support from librarians throughout the state.

“The U.S. is experiencing an explosion of attempts to censor library and curriculum materials in our public schools, and Oregon is no exception,” wrote Tiffany Bowers, a reference and outreach library assistant in Newberg. “Many of these attempts are blatant in their opposition to LGBTQ+ materials. These censorship attempts intend to limit the materials available to Oregon students based solely on the constitutionally protected viewpoints of those materials. I believe SB 1583 will help prevent these book bans and removal attempts.

“As librarians, we know it is important for students to see themselves reflected in their community. We believe it is critical to carefully select books, magazines, educational videos and experiences that reflect our student populations in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.”

Crystal Garcia of Newberg, a librarian in Sherwood, described how she struggled with reading as a child until she found a book series featuring characters who resembled her background.

“This one series turned me into an avid reader, which led me again and again to libraries, and eventually to a career in professional librarianship — such is the transformative power of representation in literature,” Garcia wrote. “Restricting access to these vital representations deprives readers of the opportunity to connect with stories that reflect and validate their own identities, which in turn serves to limit rather than empower.”

SB 1583 has an emergency clause, which would make it effective upon passage.



It would be good to have pending legislation like this listed in the newspaper so that appropriately democratic and representative input could be made.


"To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants either fools or slaves."


Lulu, thanks for that quote from Claude Adrien Helvetius! He certainly knew about book banning and burning.

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