New Book Regulation Aims for Age-Appropriateness, not Book Banning

April 15, 2024

Palmetto Promise Team

The State Department of Education (SCDE) has threaded the needle amazingly well in their recently passed new regulations for school textbooks and other curriculum materials. This is the regulation that would govern which books and other curriculum materials could be in school libraries and classrooms.

Because all regulations must receive the approval of the South Carolina General Assembly, the House Regulations & Administrative Procedures Committee hosted a public hearing on the regulations on April 10.

Here are a few takeaways:

*Currently, there are as many regulations governing books as there are school districts. That means there are some 80 different policies. That means different standards, different timelines, different levels of transparency, and different processes. These regulations standardize the process across the state. They are simple and easy to apply.

*The new regulations do not ban books. No one will be removing books from citizens or students. The reg deals entirely with “government speech,” they restrict what public (government) schools may place in their libraries and classrooms.

*The new regs are crafted to allow a complaint process, but also to prevent individuals from distracting elected school boards with endless duplicative complaints.

*Changes to the originally drafted regulation were made at the State Board of Education level to make it clear that there will be consulting between parents and school leaders early in the process, and that only South Carolina citizens who have a student in that district may register a book complaint.

During the process of the regulations being reviewed at both the state board level and at the legislative level, several easily refuted arguments have been trotted out:

*Would the new reg ban health and sexuality education? Is this a veiled attack on sex ed? No, there is a regulatory carve-out for the Comprehensive Health Education Act (1988).

*Would this law inadvertently ban the Bible? How about that passage in Judges? No, and the passage from Judges and others like it do not include explicit descriptions of sexuality.

*If a district already has a similar policy, can it keep it, or is the district required to adopt a state-mandated policy? If a school district has a policy that isn’t in conflict with this regulation, the local school district may keep its policy.

*Another unintended consequence could be that curricular material could be removed, like a science or literature textbook. No, curricula materials approved by SCDE are already reviewed as a part of that process and are not subject to removal by these regulations.

We trust these prudent and sensible regulations will be approved by the General Assembly before adjournment.