(WASHINGTON)– A new bill in Congress focused on school materials “harmful to minors” instead amounts to an “intimidation tactic” to chill education when no such problem exists, PEN America said today.

Representative Mark Green of Tennessee introduced the No Obscene Teaching in Our Schools Act, which would reduce federal funding to schools found to promote materials that are “harmful to minors.” The bill would prohibit the disbursement of federal funds to schools that violate applicable state provisions. School districts would be required to return the federal funding, or parents could choose to have federal funds rolled into a qualified tuition plan. Since 2021, at least 12 states have passed legislation prohibiting sexually explicit materials in schools, expanding long-established definitions of obscenity and introducing criminal penalties for educators.

Laura Schroeder, senior manager of legislative affairs at PEN America, said: “This bill is an intimidation tactic that seeks to address a problem that doesn’t exist. There is no pornography in our public school system, and threatening funding would create a profound chilling effect on material selection across the country. In states where similar language has become law, we have seen it applied disproportionately to LGBTQ+ content, and educators have reported self-censoring out of fear of retaliation. We cannot allow that kind of pall to be cast across the entire country.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057