(NEW YORK)– PEN America today welcomed a judge’s preliminary injunction halting implementation of HB 900 in Texas, a controversial new law that would require book vendors to rate books for sexual content prior to selling them to public schools.

Kasey Meehan, Freedom to Read program director at PEN America, said: “We welcome this decision to temporarily halt the implementation of HB 900. This law, which forces private companies and public school districts to do the state’s dirty work for them, has already caused self-censorship and confusion in public schools across the state, threatening the freedom to read for all Texans. This decision is a win for booksellers, publishers, educators, and students in Texas and a signal that the legislature has gone too far in promoting government-mandated censorship.”

Under the law, books rated “sexually explicit” would be banned from schools, while books rated “sexually relevant” would be available to students with parental consent. The terms are loosely defined in the law and each seller would be required to rate books on their own, which could result in the same book getting different ratings across the state. Sellers would also be required to rate books they had previously sold to schools, and recall any material that violates the law.

A coalition of bookstores and other concerned parties filed suit against the law, claiming that it places an undue burden on businesses; according to the plaintiffs, over six million books would require ratings and the cost of reviewing a single book would be $30,000. The law was set to go into effect on September 1, but the state said they wouldn’t enforce it until April 2024. Some school districts have already begun to comply with the legislation, resulting in temporary library closures and stoppages on book purchases.

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