The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
In a letter sent yesterday to the Wilson County Board of Education, Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mount Juliet-District 57) attempted to clarify Tennessee laws regarding book reviews and removals.
Lynn read our article from January 23rd, 2023, that covered the board’s actions regarding The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a book that Wilson County parents say contains graphic depictions of sex acts – both heterosexual and homosexual – and suicide.
Lynn is concerned that the county’s Book Review Committee – which has yet to recommend removal of any of the twelve books that have been sent to them for evaluation – is reviewing books that are in clear violation of Tennessee Code. According to Lynn, these books should have been removed from the schools within the district by the board, and not sent to the committee at all.
“I am compelled to inform you that possession of this book in school and, making it available to minors, is in violation of Tennessee Criminal Code 39-17-902. Section (e)(2) of this part makes it abundantly clear that this book, being available to minors, is a Class A misdemeanor in violation of the state’s obscenity law,” wrote Lynn. “It appears that the School Board ignored the criminal code and has relied on TCA 49-6-3803 to make decisions about sexually explicit materials in our schools. To further clarify, the criminal code trumps a review by a book review committee and the school board.”
According to Lynn, TCA 49-6-3803 grants parents and school boards the ability to employ “a more stringent examination” of books that are available to students. And in the case of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, there was no reason for the book to be evaluated by the book review committee because its sexually explicit content violates criminal law “without question.”
“I urge the Wilson County School Board to take immediate action to remove this book from Wilson County Schools, along with any other books, which also clearly violate TCA39, Chapter 17, Part 9 of the law,” said Lynn.
Last month, board members voted successfully to remove two challenged books after the review committee recommended moving them to the county’s Mature Reading List.
Last week, the Wilson County Book Review Committee recommended that The Perks of Being a Wallflower be kept on library shelves for all high school students to access without parental consent. The book, by Stephen Chbosky, graphically depicts serious issues such as suicide, rape, relationship violence, abortion, drug abuse, child molestation and more.
Board members Joseph Padilla and Beth Myers supported the removal of the book from the district. After a vote to that end failed, the board voted to place the book on the district’s Mature Reading list instead.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.