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Proposed bill would increase TN legislature oversight of books in school libraries

The bill comes after national controversy over McMinn County educators banning Maus, an award-winning graphic novel about a man's experiences during the Holocaust.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers are discussing an amended bill that would add more oversight positions on the state's textbook commission. They would be appointed by the speaker of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

The bill would require the speakers to each appoint a librarian to the textbook commission and would also require some people appointed by the governor to be approved by the General Assembly. The commission would then need to create guidance for schools when reviewing materials in a library.

That guidance will be meant to ensure that the materials are "appropriate for the age and maturity levels of the students who may access the materials," according to the bill.

The bill was proposed after a national controversy over the McMinn County Board of Education's decision to remove Maus from the curriculum, an award-winning graphic novel about a Jewish man's experiences during the Holocaust.

It was also proposed amid national reports of efforts by Republican lawmakers to ban books discussing LGBTQIA+ identities.

According to the bill, the textbook commission would also need to help schools evaluate whether materials in a library are appropriate for students if their parents speak out against it.

The commission would also have the authority to approve or reject lists of materials in school library collections. They would also need to establish a process for parents and students to petition the commission's decision if they find some material inappropriate.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2023, schools would also need to submit a list of materials in their libraries to the state "textbook and instructional materials quality commission" for approval before they can be included in a library.

The amended bill was approved in the House of Representatives and the Senate is set to vote on it Wednesday.

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