South Dakota lawmakers introduced two bills, HB1163 and SB193, that were both on the topic of minors’ access to explicit materials. Unfortunately, these two bills failed and the issue isn’t going away. Many children in South Dakota schools have access to explicit and pornographic materials, and they need protection. 

HB1163 would have prohibited “the dissemination of obscene material to minors in a public school or public library.” 

Similarly, SB193 would have “established provisions related to the review and selection of instructional materials in school districts.” It would have also required districts to provide a formal process by which [parents could request administrative review of any material available in the school if the parent believes that the material is harmful to children or not age-appropriate. 

“Materials that meet the very definition of ‘harmful to minors’ are available in school districts across South Dakota. This is a fact. The education lobby fights to keep these materials in classrooms regardless of existing South Dakota law and legislators refuse to challenge them.  The way this issue has been addressed is profoundly irresponsible, if not borderline criminal. Government funded schools that receive taxpayer’s money have no business including these types of materials in our children’s classrooms. It is our responsibility to continue informing South Dakotans of the gravity of this widespread problem and ensure better policies are implemented,” said Senator Castleberry, the sponsor of SB193.

South Dakota law defines “harmful to minors” as any description or representation of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse. There is no reason for such material to be available to minors in public schools. 

Sen. Castleberry went on to say that school boards need proactive, not reactive, policies when it comes to the introduction of books and instructional materials. Unfortunately, schools often address the issue after the damage has been done. School boards should seek input from parents regarding the instructional material they provide. This is the best way to keep dangerous ideas from corrupting young minds. 

Michele Klimek, a member of Minnehaha County Moms for Liberty, also commented on the failure of these two bills. “We’d like to thank Representative Jon Hansen and Senator Jessica Castleberry for bringing bills that would have protected minor students from harmful instructional materials and allowed for more parent involvement. Although HB1163 and SB193 failed in committee, we won big with awareness. The majority of parents, teachers and school board members are not aware of the pornographic and violent materials available to students in our public schools. We will continue to challenge this type of instructional material and want to encourage everyone to engage with their school districts as well.” 

While HB1163 and SB193 failed to achieve their intended goal, they did bring awareness to the issue. No matter what the laws of the state are, this issue will ultimately be fixed on a local level. Local moms and dad, individual school boards, staff members from community libraries and others are the closest to the situation and have another year to work towards progress on these materials. If solutions aren’t reached, we can expect more bills like these to be introduced in the 2024 legislative session.