New Tennessee law requires teachers to list and post classroom materials online

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A push for more transparency in school libraries strikes up a controversial debate, especially now that the term “library” is being expanded to also define content that’s located inside the classroom. The Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022 received Governor Bill Lee’s signature back on March 24th. Lee said the law would ensure that parents are aware of what’s available to students in their libraries, but not everyone agrees with the move.

Many educators and parents said the new requirements are overwhelming for teachers.

“Them overwhelming the teachers and putting too much on them, I think that’s unnecessary,” said Auqusta Kennedy, a Memphis native, who said teachers already have enough on their plate.

Tennessee schools are now required to list and post online, materials in their library collection. This new law also includes expanded guidance that applies to teacher classrooms.

“I think the teacher already got enough and they’re already underpaid,” said Kennedy.

Based on an August 11th memorandum sent out by the Tennessee Department of Education, content includes, “any materials regardless of form made available to students, including materials maintained in a teacher’s classroom.”

The memo goes on to explain that the law requires teachers to list books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, films, prints, documents, microfilm, discs, cassettes, videotapes, videogames, applications and subscription content in any form.

“The law just seems like a waste of time,” said Rodrick Watkins, who told FOX13 his mom was a teacher, so he’s very familiar with the requirements. “Teachers need to have room to teach and operate their classroom in a way that they see fit for their students. So, get rid of that law,” said Watkins.

Jesse Jeff, a former teacher of 17 years, now the UniServ Director for the Memphis Shelby County Education Association, told FOX13 he kept a library in his classroom but believes the new state requirements could be part of a hidden motive.

“It would be burdensome and cumbersome to have me to catalog every book that I had in there. I’m doing too much now as a teacher, and I see it as a pretext, maybe for a future book ban,” Jeff said.

Meantime, Rudy Whaley is a parent who sides with the law. Whaley said making the list available online helps parents and students plan ahead while also providing convenience for families who want to be in the know about what their child is accessing at school.

“I think something like that should have been done anyway. I think it’s great,” Whaley said.

Governor Lee said the law would create greater accountability at a local level to ensure content is age appropriate. The move follows the McMinn County School Board’s January vote to remove “Maus”, a graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its 8th-grade curriculum.