Appeals Court Strikes Down Public School Book Legislation

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Texas legislation regulating content of public school library books. In an effort to keep material deemed inappropriate off Texas public school bookshelves, the Texas Legislature in 2023 passed the Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources Act (READER). In short, the Act requires school book vendors who want to do business with Texas public schools to issue sexual-content ratings for all library materials they have ever sold (or will sell), flagging any materials deemed to be “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant” based on the materials’ depictions of or references to sex.

Plaintiffs—two Texas bookstores, three national trade associations (representing booksellers, book publishers, and book authors), and a legal defense organization—sued for injunctive relief, alleging that READER violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. Texas immediately appealed.

The question before the appeals court was whether Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claims that READER violates their First Amendment rights. The Fifth Circuit concluded that Plaintiffs were likely to sustain economic and constitutional injuries and that those injuries were irreparable.  The case is Book People v. Wong, 23-50669 (January 17, 2024).

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