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Gov. Henry McMaster Requests Investigation into Obscene Materials in Public School Libraries

November 10, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster has requested that S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman immediately begin a comprehensive investigation into the presence of obscene and pornographic materials in public schools in South Carolina. The governor made the request in a letter to Superintendent Spearman after he received examples of pornographic materials found in schools from concerned parents in Fort Mill. In addition, the governor has notified the State Law Enforcement Division to evaluate whether any state laws have been broken as a result.

“By way of example, it is my understanding that concerned parents were recently required to petition the Fort Mill School District to remove a book from a school’s physical or digital library, titled Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe,” Governor McMaster wrote in the letter. “If school personnel had performed even a cursory review in this particular instance, it would have revealed that the book contains sexually explicit and pornographic depictions, which easily meet or exceed the statutory definition of obscenity.  Thus, I am concerned that further examination may identify additional instances in which inappropriate materials have been introduced into our State’s public schools.”

The governor continued: “For sexually explicit materials of this nature to have ever been introduced or allowed in South Carolina’s schools, it is obvious that there is or was either a lack of, or a complete breakdown in, any existing oversight processes or the absence of appropriate screening standards.  Therefore, I respectfully request that the Department of Education promptly investigate this matter, on a statewide basis, and identify whether any systemic policy or procedural deficiencies exist at the state or local levels, or both.”

The governor also called on the Department of Education or the State Board of Education to promulgate statewide standards and directives to prevent pornography from entering the state’s public schools and to identify any materials that may already be in school libraries.

Noting that the dissemination of the obscene materials likely violates state law, the governor referred the matter to Chief of the State Law Enforcement Division, Mark Keel, writing: “I trust you agree that pornography and obscenity have no place in our State’s public schools, much less in their libraries.  Aside from being deeply disturbing and manifestly inappropriate, it is likely illegal under South Carolina law.  Accordingly, by copy of this letter, I am simultaneously notifying the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division of this matter for further evaluation.”