Corinne S. Kennedy: Memphis students oppose bills banning ‘obscene’ and LGBTQ books
Corinne Kennedy usually covers economic development and healthcare for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, but recently she talked to students who are standing up to the state’s attempt to ban books and silence certain topics–and they have plenty to say.
As Tennessee legislators continue to debate two bills limiting what books and educational materials are available in schools, Memphis students have launched a campaign to unite youth across the state and insert their voices into the conversations in Nashville.
Milana Kumar and Salina Shamsuddin, organizers of the Tennessee Youth Coalition, called on state legislators to oppose house bills 1944 and 800. On Saturday, the two kicked off a campaign to encourage kids and adults to amplify the voices of students concerned about the potential for censorship of learning materials.
“We’re the ones that go to school. Teachers are the ones that teach at school,” Shamsuddin said. “It would be nice for (legislators) to amplify our voices in this decision-making rather than them making the decision on our behalf.”
HB 1944 would prohibit public schools and public charter schools from having books or supplementary or instructional materials in school libraries that contain “obscene materials or materials harmful to minors.” HB 800 would ban materials that “promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender issues or lifestyles.”
The bills have spurred fierce debates among legislators, parents, teachers and students across the state about where — and if — a line should be drawn between topics that may make some students uncomfortable and topics some consider inappropriate for minors. Those topics include everything from racism to nudity to sexual violence to gender identity.
Kumar and Shamsuddin were joined by other local students who asked legislators not to approve the two bills. Zeina Nassif asked legislators what part of her life, as an LGBTQ student, was inappropriate to be discussed in a classroom.