Missouri’s New Banned Books Law Sparks Debate

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – A new Missouri law that goes into effect at the end of the month worries some, but others say it protects school children from sexually explicit content.

“It’s really a smokescreen,” said Kris Kleindienst, owner of Left Bank Books.

His company supplies banned and endangered books to schools.

“What I would say to these parents is that they should read the books first,” Kleindienst said.

Under the new law, which will take effect on August 28, school officials providing sexually explicit material could face charges. Penalties for officials can range from taking a course, a year in jail, or even a $2,000 fine.

“Clearly there is some concern here, librarians are very confused about what they should be doing.”

In response to the ban, Wentzville’s mother Linda Williford wrote to KMOV challenging the law as a book ban.

“This is not a book ban,” Williford wrote. “School districts had policies in place previously preventing such age-restricted materials, but they chose not to follow their own policies.”

St. Louis County District Attorney Wesley Bell said it was his job to assess any charges of violating state law.

“We’re not looking to prosecute non-violent, low-level offenses,” Bell said. “Now, that said, we understand if something is legitimately pornographic or whatever, we understand that students and children shouldn’t have access to it and that’s something we would obviously look into.”

The law describes sexually explicit material as depictions of sexual acts or genitalia, with exceptions for artistic and scientific significance.

“I think a lot of these laws, their genesis are political issues,” Bell said.

Ultimately, it depends on one’s interpretation of whether something is artistic or not.

“They call it sexually explicit and pornography, but what they’re really talking about are books written by or about gay people mentioning anything to do with gender.”

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