The debate over a book ban is flaring up in the Oregon legislature

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A bill that would ban school boards or district officials banning textbooks, instructional materials or library books became a hot topic during a public hearing on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1583 bans books based on race, gender identity, country of origin, sexual orientation, disability and immigrant status. Democrats say the bill protects the rights of parents to decide what their children read. Republicans say it gives children access to material that is not age appropriate.

Mariana Garcia Medina, a senior policy fellow at the Oregon ACLU, said passage of the bill “would make a clear statement that anti-democratic, discriminatory censorship has no place in our public schools.”

Medina says book bans are “tactics used by small groups of extremists” to “censor the stories of historically marginalized communities and identities.” Instead, she said students who have access to these books can feel represented by the stories they read.

Woodburn High School student Cesar Salinas agreed, saying that as a Latino student it is difficult to find books that represent him — even without a book ban.

“Preserving the few books on the bookshelf at my school is not the only good this bill brings; it would include books with a wide variety of experiences for students to explore,” he said. “When you know about people who are different from you, you realize that we have more in common than not.”

When the bill passed in the Oregon Senate on February 27, it was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. But Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) said advancing the bill was a step in the wrong direction.

Knopp said Republicans wanted to discuss SB 1583 during a longer legislative session because some Oregonians remain “deeply concerned” about its impact.

“Democrats have framed this bill as an issue of discrimination, but the bigger picture is to ensure that Oregon schools provide their students with appropriate reading materials to enhance their educational experiences,” Knopp said. “Our minority report recognized that discrimination is wrong, and so is providing explicit content to children that is harmful to their development.”

Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.

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