The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly March 12 to require its public schools and libraries to filter internet access to obscene materials, despite a federal law that mandates essentially the same thing.
Members voted 92-2 to require the blocking of materials that are deemed to be “obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors,” the Daily Oklahoman reported March 13.
The bill’s author, Rep. Bill Graves, R-Oklahoma City, said studies show a link between pornography and violence. He said the bill is needed to counter the American Library Association, which he called a “liberal group” that is against any kind of censorship.
State schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett said the bill is not necessary because 97 percent of Oklahoma schools fall under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, a new law that requires all schools getting eRate aid to use filters. Only 17 of the state’s 544 school districts do not participate in the federal program, Garrett said.
Rep. Clay Pope, D-Loyal, said requiring schools to buy software devices to intercept pornography is too costly for small rural libraries. Pope offered an amendment to say that the filtering devices would be required based “upon availability of funding as determined by the local library board.” His amendment failed 48-45.
Lynn McIntosh, director of the Chickasaw Regional Library System, which consists of eight libraries in five counties, said Graves’ bill is unclear. She said it sounds like every computer would be required to have a filtering device, whether it is used by staff, adults, or children.
“It would be very expensive for us,” McIntosh told the Oklahoman. “All of our computers are centered where they can be supervised by our staff. Our board takes a pretty solid stand on local control.”