Idaho bill would allow parents to sue over ‘harmful’ books in schools, libraries

A new Idaho bill would allow schools and public libraries to be sued for allowing minors access to books, films, and other media that depict inappropriate sexual content.

Rep. Jaron Crane (R-Nampa) introduced legislation that would allow parents to sue schools or libraries if their child was exposed to “harmful material” by employees, or if the institution fails to take reasonable steps to limit access to such materials.

This bill is a mirror of a current Idaho law which prohibits children from receiving “harmful” material for under 18 that contains “nudity or sexual conduct or sado-masochistic violence” when it’s lewd, or “patently offensive according to prevailing standards”.

The law defines “sexual conduct” as any depiction of masturbation, homosexuality or sexual intercourse.


Crane stated Monday that “Seeing as these community and public schools are funded by Idaho taxpayer money, it is in our best interest that these institutions make an reasonable effort to limit access to children when referring to these materials in libraries,” Crane said to the House State Affairs Committee.

Schools, libraries, colleges and universities, as well as museums, are exempted from the law banning the distribution of “harmful material to minors.” The Idaho House passed a bill last year that would have eliminated the exemption and made employees of these institutions liable for criminal sanctions. The bill was effectively killed by the Senate Republicans who refused to hold a hearing.


Crane’s bill creates civil liability for libraries and schools, instead of criminal. The guardian of a child who obtained “harmful” material from school or library can sue for $10,000 in statutory damages.

This bill provides legal defenses for school and library employees who had “reasonable cause” to believe that the person obtaining the “harmful” material was at least 18 years old, or if the minor obtained the material with permission from a guardian.

This bill is part of a nationwide movement by activists and public officials to limit minors’ access sexual content in libraries, especially material with LGBTQ content. Last summer, Meridian activists invaded library board meetings accusing officials of giving “smut-filled pornography to children”.

Last year, a Nampa school board banned almost two dozen books. These included “The Kite Runner”, by Khaled Haosseini, “Looking for Alaska”, by John Green, “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison and “The Handmaid’s Tale”, by Margaret Atwood.

North Idaho’s library director quit amid “militant Christian Fundamentalism, intimidation techniques and threatening behaviour” regarding the library’s content moderation policies.

In a Monday blog post, the Idaho Family Policy Center, which is a Christian lobbying organization, included a photo from a Pride book display. They also urged lawmakers to ban drag shows and to block doctors from providing transgender care.

Blaine Conzatti, President of Idaho Family Police Center said that no one was talking about banning books in a press release. “We are simply asking schools and libraries to take reasonable steps in order to stop children accessing pornographic material.”