South Dakota organization questions school library content

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 5:15 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Sandra Waltman with the South Dakota Education Association believes school libraries provide students with rich materials as librarians work with a school’s curriculum director to fill their shelves with an array of books to pique young readers’ interests.

“We want our kids to love reading. And books really are their freedom to learn,” said Waltman.

But a local group, Patriot ripple effect, is voicing concerns regarding the content of some of the books. Amy Bruner with Moms for Liberty declined an interview but offered a recent podcast posted on the Patriot ripple effects’ website:

“As a parent, I want to be able to determine how my children are introduced and given sensitive material,” said Bruner.

Recently Patriot Ripple Effect hosted a meeting, “What’s in your child’s library,” emphasizing that the adults-only meeting would include graphic content. However, several moms were turned away when they arrived for the meeting.

A woman at the check-in table was recorded telling the women, “You guys have a sponsor tonight?” When the women responded that they were not aware of a sponsor requirement they were told by a man, “It’s Members only.”

We asked the owner of the venue Thunder Road, Representative Al Novstrup of Aberdeen, if he is a patriot ripple effect member. He says he not and has not even attended any of their South Dakota Chapter meetings.

“Patriot Ripple has events at my business. They’re free to set their policies as to who they want to have attend their meetings” said Novstrup.

We also asked another Patriot Ripple Effect podcast guest, Representative Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, about his allegations that libraries are “giving little second or first graders these pornographic materials.” We asked to know more of the books and their location.

He suggested we research parents providing testimony at a state and national level and contact them. His entire quote is listed below.

There are six books across South Dakota school libraries that Patriot Ripple Effect finds of top concern. The school libraries are located in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Brookings, North Sioux City, Tea, Canton Huron, Watertown, and Spearfish. A spokesperson provided the list, and all are based on sexuality. Some describe rape or incest; others reveal searching to understand their sexual identity, how-to guides, and others have pages of sexual activity weaved in the storyline.

We asked, “Is it okay for a high schooler to open a book and read about how a girl has plump red lips perfect for the bedroom and then the description of him licking her nipples?”

Waltman responded, “Without knowing the context of the book, I don’t know how to answer that. You can’t judge a book by just a line or two. You really do want to judge a book by, you know, from beginning to end,” said Waltman.

And what may be considered a holy book has spiked the curiosity of students in school.

“It got out that the Song of Solomon was a little risque, and now all of the kids wanted to check out the Bible to read that,” said Waltman.

Parents can have access to the school library contents and ask questions.

“Talk to their librarian, but most importantly, they should really talk to their kids and read with their kids,” said Waltman.

A spokesperson for Sioux Falls public schools has declined an interview but says a procedure is in place when a parent voices concerns regarding a book. There have been three occasions of a parent addressing the school board about books in the libraries in the last school year.

Books of concern from Patriot Ripple Effect and links to examples:

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur:

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas:

Lucky by Alice Sebold Here is an excerpt:

This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson:

Flamer by Mike Curato:

Push by Precious:

Helpful links:

Link to find school library card catalog databases

Sioux Falls School District Library Services Page

Full statement from Representative Hansen:

“I’ve heard from numerous parents from across the state and heard the stories of parents across the country who have expressed their concerns about the age appropriateness of some materials being made available to young children. Some of these parents testified in committee, submitted written testimony to the committee, and produced lists of available books that have raised concerns, and I would encourage you to reach out to them as well.

My goal is to ensure that materials are appropriately screened before being put before young children and that parents have the final say about the content that their child is exposed to.

As for this last session: the legislation that I introduced would have prevented materials “harmful to minors” from being made available to minors at taxpayer expense in school and public libraries.”

Harmful to minors is already defined in SD law:

(4) “Harmful to minors,” includes in its meaning the quality of any material or of any performance or of any description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse, if it:

(a) Predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful, or morbid interest of minors; and

(b) Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors; and

(c) Is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value;

Rep. Jon Hansen (R)

Dell Rapids

Chairman, House Judiciary Committee