Bill that makes prosecuting teachers and librarians easier sails through Indiana state Senate
'Tired Teacher In Classroom' [Shutterstock]

The Republican-led state Senate in Indiana passed a bill that would remove legal protections from teachers and school librarians who distribute material determined by legislators to be harmful to minors.

State Sen. James Tomes (R-Wadesville) wrote the bill in response to complaints from parents about pornography in schools, but he admitted that he hadn't personally found any examples of such books and refused to say if LGBTQ material was harmful to children when asked by state Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis), reported WFYI-FM.

“That's a broad statement," Tomes said, "because if you're talking about maybe explaining the lifestyle is one thing, but the books I'm talking about, Senator Ford, these books are just full bore graphic pictures and illustrations."

Ford asked if Tomes believed the bill could have a chilling effect on what materials students were allowed to access, and the legislator said that was the point of his measure.

“I hope it does have a chilling effect,” Tomes said. “I hope it's enough of a chilling effect that they will come to their senses.”

The bill's co-author Sen. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) pointed toward unidentified books at Tomes' desk that he described as "really bad, sickening," but didn't identify them, and Tomes said the measure was prompted by concerns raised by the far-right conspiracist group Purple for Parents, whose Indiana chapter president appears to be a QAnon adherent.

“You could take something that would be illegal to hand to a child on the street — I would go to jail if I handed this to a child on the street — but if I was in a school building or in a library, it would not be illegal,” said state Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville), "and that's what this bill is trying to do, is try to correct that loophole.”

Three Republicans joined all the Democratic senators who were present against the bill, which passed easily at 37-12 and would establish a process for parents to file complaints over materials they find inappropriate and would prohibit educators from arguing in their own defense the material had educational value.

“I think that the complaint process that we already have in place is working,” said state Sen. Andrea Hunley (D-Indianapolis), a former principal.

She noted the bill allows parents to file complaints over inappropriate materials, rather than pornographic materials that Republicans claim without proof are being disseminated to minors.

"Then we also have to think about our books that are dealing with tough modern issues, you know, racism, and sexism and mental illness and suicide and even assault, these books are more likely to be axed," Hunley sad. "We know this because we’re seeing it.”