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Oklahoma AG announces end to school library book obscenity probe

Eliott Reyna
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Updated Feb. 25 at 3:26 a.m.

In the wake of reports of his review of school library books, Attorney General John O’Connor put out a statement Thursday afternoon that said his office was no longer investigating the matter.

O’Connor’s statement in full:

"I received complaints from several parents about books in public school libraries which the parents found obscene. I will always listen to the complaints of Oklahomans. I recommended that the parents present their objections to the school boards. I also recommended that they talk with the legislature regarding how Oklahoma law defines 'obscenity.'

“Our office is not conducting an investigation in this matter at this time. I understand there is proposed legislation that has been introduced in this new session to address these parents' concerns.

“I respect the role and responsibility of parents in the education and social development of their children and urge school boards to consider the complaints of these parents and work with them in regard to the materials available in their school libraries."

ORIGINAL POST (Feb. 23 at 2:25 p.m.)

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor says he’s investigating if more than 50 books found in public school libraries across the state violate obscenity laws.

The Frontier first reported on O’Connor’s investigation. The outlet confirmed he was investigating if books that are staples on high school reading lists - like Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” or John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” - violate the state’s obscenity statutes.

The American Library Association says school librarians reported more than 300 challenges to library materials across the country last fall, more than doubling the total the group saw in all of 2020.

Book challenges are heating up in Oklahoma. Bixby Schools recently voted to keep a pair of challenged books there and Bristow Schools did a thorough review of dozens of titles in its libraries.

Bristow librarian Allison Hilburn told StateImpact last month the crude language used by characters in “Of Mice and Men” was specifically called into question. But she said it has a purpose.

“Steinbeck starts off with a beautiful description of California, and he's using very eloquent language,” she said. “And then when the people start speaking, they of course, they're speaking to their knowledge, the words that they use are just like, it's character.”

The Oklahomanreported O’Connor is reviewing the following titles:

  • "A is for Activism," by Innosanto Nagara
  • "The Every Body Book: The LGBTQ+ Inclusive Guide for Kids about Sex, Gender, Bodies, and Families," by Rachel E. Simon
  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," by Stephen Chbosky
  • "Gender Queer: A Memoir," by Maia Kobabe
  • "Lawn Boy," by Jonathan Evison
  • "Forever," by Judy Blume
  • "Queer: A Graphic History," by Meg-John Barker and Julie Scheele
  • "Be Gay, Do Comics!" by The Nib
  • "Two Boys Kissing," by David Levithan
  • "Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts)," by L.C. Rosen
  • "The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison
  • "Bad For You," by Abbi Glines
  • "Before I Fall," by Lauren Oliver
  • "George," by Alex Gino
  • "Speak," by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • "Between Shades of Gray," by Ruta Sepetys
  • "For Black Girls Like Me," by Mariama Lockington
  • "You Should See Me In a Crown," by Leah Johnson
  • "On Thin Ice," by Michael Northrop
  • "The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein," by Kiersten White
  • "Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana’s Story," by Marissa Meyer
  • "House of Furies," by Madeleine Roux
  • "I Was Here," by Gayle Forman
  • "Hold Me Closer," by Will Grayson
  • "Whatever," Michel Houellebecq
  • "Dear Evan Hansen," by Val Emmich and Steven Levenson
  • "The Lovely Bones," by Alice Sebold
  • "Symptoms of Being Human," by Jeff Garvin
  • "Whale Talk," by Chris Crutcher
  • "Red White & Royal Blue," by Casey McQuiston
  • "Zenobia," by Morten Dürr
  • "Mastiff," by Tamora Pierce
  • "Two Can Keep a Secret," by Karen McManus
  • "Burned," by Ellen Hopkins
  • "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," by Alvin Schwartz
  • "Infandous," by Elana Arnold
  • "Broken Things," by Lauren Oliver
  • "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie
  • "All American Boys," by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds
  • "The Hate U Give," by Angie Thomas
  • "Thirteen Reasons Why," by Jay Asher
  • "Looking for Alaska," by John Green
  • "Bless Me, Ultima," by Rudolfo Anaya
  • "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley
  • "Crank," by Ellen Hopkins
  • "The Chocolate War," by Robert Cormier
  • "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," by Maya Angelou
  • "Lord of Flies," by William Golding
  • "Bridge to Terabithia," by Katherine Paterson
  • "Of Mice and Men," by John Steinbeck
  • "A Court of Frost and Starlight," by Sarah Maas
  • "Suicide Notes," by Michael Thomas Ford
  • "By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead," by Julie Anne Peters
  • "Milk and Honey," by Rupi Kaur

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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