88th LegislatureEducationState Rep. Toth Promises Legislation to ‘Tighten’ Law Banning Display of Obscenity to Minors

State Rep. Steve Toth said his bill would only apply to taxpayer-funded school libraries and classroom assignments.
June 9, 2022
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In an effort to “protect children in schools from sexually explicit and obscene materials that serve no educational purpose,” state Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) promised to file a bill in the next legislative session to adjust the current law banning the display of harmful materials to minors.

“Whether it’s a drag show for kids at a transgender bar or fiction books in schools describing oral sex, parents are reporting things that are absolutely inappropriate for kids,” Toth stated.

Toeing the line of Texas’ ongoing conflict between state and local control, Toth said he would support collaboration with local authorities but still pursue the issue at the state level.

“Parents are alarmed when their kids are targeted in schools. Uvalde is the most shocking example. State leadership has committed to making our schools safer this upcoming legislative session,” Toth said.

“I’ve introduced legislation to replicate what we started in Montgomery County to require coordinated planning, drilling, and response emanating from the county to ensure the greatest level of collaboration. I still think that’s the best approach. At the same time, we have to address the obscene material that is desensitizing our kids and causing little boys and girls to be objectified.”

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Toth specified that his bill would tighten an exemption already in the state’s obscenity law.

The Texas Penal Code forbids the sale, distribution, or display of sexually explicit materials to minors. However, people prosecuted for violating this law can defend the materials as educational.

According to Toth’s press release, his bill would only apply to taxpayer-funded school libraries and classroom assignments.

Toth is not the only state Republican to home in on the issue of obscenity in public school libraries and classrooms as of late. Fellow Texas House Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) has waged an effort for months to remove books deemed explicit from public school libraries in his district. In November, Governor Greg Abbott asked the Texas Education Agency, State Board of Education (SBOE), and State Library and Archives Commission to create a vetting process for obscene books and classroom materials.

The same issue occasionally rears its head at SBOE meetings. The SBOE approves instructional materials for Texas public schools, although schools may choose materials besides those approved by the board.

Texas lawmakers cannot officially file bills until the fall.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.