The Utah Senate passed legislation Friday that calls for the removal of school library books from collections statewide if three school districts or two school districts and five charter schools determine the materials are pornographic or indecent.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, HB29 is a clarifying measure and would help ensure that “objective sensitive material” is quickly removed from Utah public schools.

A substituted version of HB29 passed the Utah Senate on Friday but was returned to the House to determine if it concurred with changes to the bill made in a Senate committee.

In Senate debate Thursday, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the legislation bans illicit pornography from being available in public school libraries.

“Illicit pornography is often graphic, X-rated descriptions or depictions of sexual acts that are designed to arouse and excite people. We’re not trying to ban books simply because sexuality is mentioned or a sexual encounter is briefly described,” Weiler said.

The legislation “is not an attempt to censor material for the sake of convenience or because the government disagrees with the materials’ message. It does not ban any content because it explores racism, violence or alternative lifestyles or other controversial subject matters,” he explained.

Weiler said the legislation “preserves local control” of Utah’s 41 elected local school boards and public charter school boards.

“If three local school districts or five charter schools ban a book as explicitly pornographic, those books would be banned in other school districts unless the school board members and the other districts put those books on an agenda within 60 days, that would allow them to get through a budget process or whatever, and vote to keep those books,” he said.

Members of school boards that refute the determinations of other boards, “then those school board members will be on record saying ‘Yes, we want pornography to stay in our school libraries,’ and then the voters can decide if they agree with those decisions,” Weiler said.

Under the latest version of HB29, school board members would also have standing to challenge books.

The Utah Legislature passed legislation two years ago that established a process to challenge school library books or other materials.

“That led to some ludicrous results where people were challenging the Qur’an, the Bible and other books of scripture, not because they were pornographic per se, but because they wanted to make a mockery of this legislation,” Weiler said,

The bill passed the Senate Friday on a vote of 15-7, largely along party lines.

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Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, who is an educator, spoke against the legislation, explaining that teachers are struggling with the subjectiveness of the bill.

“It brings our teachers under question. It brings our librarians into question. The process has been working really well. The reason why this process is being questioned again is because a few parents think it’s not moving as quickly as it should be,” she said.

While Riebe said ongoing debate about sensitive materials in schools “is creating a lot of tension in our schools with our librarians and our teachers where there’s a lack of trust and a lack of understanding about what we’re doing and thinking and that we’re not really doing our due diligence to do the best we can,” she said.