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Episode 5 | Obscenity Laws and Porn in Schools

May 10, 2022

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In this episode of The Kitchen Table Activist, Karen will help you discover how obscenity laws in your state might be allowing inappropriate material to remain in your school library or even in your child’s classroom, not to mention what is readily available to your student via school computer networks. Find out how to advocate for more child-friendly policies in your local district.

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Hey everybody, Karen England here with Kitchen Table Activist. This is where we take you from being a keyboard warrior to being a citizen lobbyist. We are going to reclaim our schools, reclaim our parental rights, and reclaim our country. So today, we're going to talk about the graphic pictures, curricula, and everything that's given to our schools. One of the main avenues that's allowed obscenity, while there are more than one, I want to talk about kind of the foundation of it, you know, what's allowing it and, and how we can start to remove this stuff. And it's all about the word “obscenity” and obscenity being allowed in schools. So, hold onto your seats! When obscenity laws came about, and they were put into the penal code. So, when something is obscene and let's say, I give it to my neighbor's kid, I can get in trouble for exposing them to graphic materials. 

However, when that definition of obscenity came out and all those laws came out, there were 44 states that went in and they said, you know what? We want to have exemptions when it comes to obscenity for libraries, public schools, and for universities. And so that's when it came about. Chances are, you are in one of the states that has an exemption for obscenity. And again, 44 states have exemptions including Tennessee, California, and Nevada. There are several, so you're going to need to find out. And I'll talk about that as far as, you know, how you can find out what the law is in your state, but, what would be illegal somewhere else outside of the schoolhouse walls, is legal and protected in that school and that needs to change. And while I have issues with public libraries, which are paid for with community tax dollars, I wanted to talk specifically about schools. Let's tackle one problem at a time.  

So we've got these exemptions to obscenity. So that means, when you go in to your school district; and again, things that someone would be sued in the workplace for sexual harassment, it is allowed to be shown to your child. It's allowed to be discussed with your child. Your child is allowed to read it. And so, that is how a lot of this stuff is getting in. And when you look at it, you go, wow, how, how is this in there? How is this allowed in school? That's why, same with public libraries, people would be surprised to know that people can go in and, and look at porn in the public school libraries. And a lot of people do that a lot, so you need to know that's going on. Again, we're going to tackle getting it out of the schools, get organized, and then we'll go after the public libraries. 

But a lot of it comes back to the idea that there is a free speech issue. And while I'm not an attorney, I just play one at work. I'm going to talk a little bit about that because, free speech is protected and that is going to come up later when we talk about things. So what happened, with these obscenity laws and why we're kind of stuck with them, was a case out of California. It was a case back in 1973, and it was Miller V, California. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that obscenity has to meet kind of three criteria. And you've got to hit all three in order for something to be obscene and removed. So you've got to meet these three things to then get it removed from the school. So the average person applying for a contemporary community standard has to find the work to be number one, kind of sexual in nature and the word they use talks about “creating a sexual feeling”. Number two, whether the work, meaning like the book, depicts or describes in a blatantly offensive way, sexual conduct specifically designated by the applicable state law and every state has a law on obscenity. Problem is, schools are exempt from it. So you need to look up what your state law is on obscenity in general, and look at what that definition is. And then number three, whether the work, again the book or piece of art taken as lacking serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. So you've got a textbook or a book a lot of times, like in the AP classes, or, I mean, we're finding this stuff even down in kindergarten in your school library. A lot of the books that are in there, librarians will keep it because they say, oh well, it meets community standards. Well, it might meet that librarian's community standards, but I don't think it meets the rest of the communities’ standards. And so often what they consider graphic is not what we would consider graphic. They say, oh, well that's really okay. Your kids just need to grow up. You're sheltering them. The other argument all the time that librarians, which are the curators of the books. They make the decision about what books go in the library and on the shelf. So keep that in mind when they come up and they argue, oh, you want a book band? You want a book band? No, right now the librarians are banning certain books. I just want to have a say in what books are curated. So that's a whole other podcast where we talk about how you deal with going up against your local school board or your legislature, you know, when you're being screamed at for banning books. So, the other thing that librarians come up with, remember I just said number three of the Miller test is the work taken as a whole lacks serious, literary value. So often, you'll notice that a lot of these books with really graphic scenes of rape or incest, or, you know, just a lot of sexual,  exploration, they often have an award on it by some liberal book company that gives them an award. 

And so the librarians says, well I can't remove this because according to the Miller test, it's got serious literary value. No, it doesn't. If you were to take this before the community, the community would agree that it lacks serious literary value. The community's entirely different than the library association. And you need to understand that, that our library associations have been taken over just like the local teachers union, you know, everything we learned about what was going on in COVID and the people we thought were our friends and we thought were going to back up the parents and that they were our partners in when we turned our kids over to them for the school day. And we found out, wow, they're not really on our side, nor is the librarian association. I hate to say it, but it's true. So, what happened there was that Miller test back in 1973, and there was a case, and it was brought before the U.S. Supreme court and the Supreme court came out and it said he outlined what the majority outlined as guidelines for what is considered obscenity for jurors. 

So they named it all out and at the time this Miller who brought it, he wanted there to be an obscenity standard that was totally national. One that would apply to everybody as hey, this is what obscenity is and if it falls under this, everyone has to comply. But the majority came out and said no, the majority of the Supreme court in their ruling said it's not realistic or constitutionally sound to read the first amendment as required, that all the people of Maine or Mississippi accept public depictions of conduct found tolerable in Las Vegas or New York City. So, it has to be local. What San Francisco is okay with and pushing/promoting is different than what Clarksville, Tennessee is going to push or promote. And so there needs to be that community standard, which we talked about in number one of three for the whole Miller case. 

And so that's where we're at and the problem is that those 44 states went in and exempted schools from that, and then of course, while we weren't paying attention prior to COVID, these different schools put in place policies that they decided are the way a parent can object to a book, and often the way a parent objects to a book, is it stacked against the parent? And so the process, which is the number one thing you need to do, you need to find out the process to challenge a book in your local school district. So that will be on your handout: to find out the policy of your local school district to challenge a book and then the appeal process as well. And so often, the challenge and the appeal process takes quite a bit out of you. And again, it's stacked against you. 

Usually the librarian makes the decision. And then after the librarian, you have to appeal to the board. To me, I just think it's crazy. All the hoops they make parents go through, which is why we want to change state laws to make it more parent friendly at the local school district to challenge these things. So, the first thing you need to do is find out what your local school board policy is because you can change the local school board policy, your school board works for you. And if their policy has a bunch of hoops to jump through before you can remove a book, then that needs to change. The one big objection that you're going to get, in addition to book banning, that they're going to talk about the whole literary value, all of that, but again, let the community decide. You know? If you've got a school board member that thinks a book has got literary value, then you might want to, you know, something, that's got a graphic rape scene. You might want to vote them out of office the next time. You might want to run against them yourself. So when you're talking about going up against a policy and we will have model policies eventually on our website and, and will help you with our kitchen table activists to try and go up against your local school board, when you go, the other thing they're going to bring up is called the Pico case. You'll hear that a lot. And you know, their legal council will send you something on the Pico case, because again, remember how I talked about this is also a first amendment issue, obscenity isn't, but political and objectionable speech. All of that is so you can't object to a book because it talks about adultery. That's just an idea that you might find offensive, but if it's a graphic sex scene, you can, and that's what the Pico case decided that you can't throw something is not obscene, just because you don't like the idea or the political point of view. 

And so, I hope you're tracking with me that there's a real difference between the sexual graphic stuff. And then just disagreeing with a political point of view or a speech or ideas that you don't agree with, that you wouldn't be able to throw out in, in a local school district. A couple of things you need to find out: what your local school board policy is and the appeal process, and what is in your local school district. There are a lot of books that are in there, and that I'm telling you, you are going to want to challenge. We're going to put a video when I testified at the Tennessee legislature in let's see, 2022 just recently in 2022. And I read from a book that is currently as we speak still in a Nashville school, and it could be in yours. So, I'm going to sign off on the issue of pornography. I want to encourage you that it is up to us to save our kids. No one's going to do it for us. And that parents, grandparents, and community members, it's you that have been called for such a time as this. 


~~ Karen 


Let everyone know which state you are learning policies for in the comments below! What state where you looking for in the Obscenity Exemption Statutes Handout? Not sure what handout we are referring to? No problem! Just scroll to the top of this page and select the “Download Resource Now” button to get your handout instantly!

We have been working on a map so you can see just how far your reach is going by being part of this movement with Karen and the Kitchen Table Activists. Half of getting where we want to go is knowing how we got to where we are now. Karen is ready to equip you with the tools and knowledge you need to gain a strong community.