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OFT Opposes HB 556 and HB 662

June 5, 2024
Contact: Neil Bhaerman, 412-266-4899,

Ohio Federation of Teachers Opposes HB 556 and HB 662

Educators and library workers sound alarm about vague legislation that could censor public libraries and school materials

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Federation of Teachers is opposed to HB 556 and HB 662 and plans to testify against these bills if they receive legislative hearings, the union announced today. HB 556 would change existing laws in order to subject teachers and librarians to a felony charge for the offense of pandering obscenity, without providing sufficient clarity on what constitutes obscenity. HB 662 would require public libraries to adopt a policy that prohibits its libraries from displaying matter that may be “harmful to juveniles.” Under HB 662, an Ohio resident can file a complaint against any library system in the state, and libraries that are found to have violated the law would be stripped of their state funding. 

“Students deserve access to books and curriculum that are honest and age-appropriate, and public library patrons deserve information and entertainment provided by their local library system without censorship from state government. Unfortunately, in the last few years there has been a persistent, coordinated effort to censor materials that Ohio students have access to. These efforts have been part of a backlash against elements of education that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper. “HB 556 and HB 662 are the next iteration of this campaign against honesty and inclusion in education and public libraries. It is merely censorship dressed up as bills to protect children.”

“These two bills go much further than other book and curriculum bans that have been proposed in Ohio because they will also apply to public library systems,” Cropper continued. “Even though the bills are aimed at protecting children, they are so vague that they’ll create a chilling effect and restrict the materials, resources, and services that public libraries provide – even to adults – in the communities they serve.”

As currently written, HB 556 defines “school librarian” to include librarians at “school district public libraries.” School district public libraries are not school libraries; that terminology is used to refer to a classification of public libraries in Ohio. According to information available from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 148 of Ohio’s 251 public library systems are classified as school district public libraries. This includes three library systems where workers have recently joined OFT: Worthington Libraries, Grandview Heights Public Library, and Pickerington Public Library. HB 662 applies to every board of public library trustees in Ohio. 

“I'm concerned the vagueness of HB 556 and HB 662 would be too easily weaponized by bad faith actors focused on attacking public schools and libraries, rather than actually protecting children. Families should decide together what materials are appropriate for their children, but not every family is the same. Our libraries strive to offer collections representing a multitude of views, opinions and life experiences so everyone can find something that meets their particular needs,” said April Overly, a librarian at Worthington Libraries and a member of Worthington Public Libraries United. “Intellectual freedom is at the heart of the work public libraries do and it plays a huge role in the trust the public has in us. We can’t allow politicians to infringe on that freedom by deciding which books, music, films, and other media we’re allowed to make available to our patrons.”

“The best way to inspire a lifelong love of reading in our students is to give them access to books that they want to read. This includes books where the characters face the same problems and feel the same doubts and emotions that our students have, and it includes books where the characters look and sound like our students,” said Amy Bloomberg, a school librarian at Cleveland Heights High School and a member of Cleveland Heights Teachers Union. “HB 556 would threaten our ability to provide engaging, relevant books for our students by instilling fear in teachers and school librarians and threatening felony charges based on the legitimate educational materials we choose to use.”


The Ohio Federation of Teachers, is a state federation of 60 local unions representing approximately 20,000 active and retired public school teachers and staff, charter school teachers and staff, higher education faculty and staff, social workers, library workers, and public employees. 


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