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Obscene Books, Minor’s Medical Rights, And The Parental Rights Law

(Part 1 in a 3-Part Series)

By Tina Wolfe

McDowell Countytina wolfe mcdowell county


Parents, grandparents, community leaders, and nonprofit organizations gathered at the Beam Event Center on Saturday, January 29, 2024, to learn more about current and pending laws directly impacting North Carolina families.

NC Values Coalition, a grassroots nonprofit working to promote life, family, and freedom, presented three important legal issues of which parents need to be     aware:

  • Obscene Books in Schools
  • Minor’s Right to Consent to Medical Care
  • Enforcement of the Parental Rights Law (SB49)nc values coalition Obscene Books, Minor’s Medical Rights, And The Parental Rights Law

General Counsel for the nonprofit, Mary Potter Summa, J.D. presented each issue and shared information critical to parents and guardians of school-age children.  Each issue was presented with 1. An overview of the issue. 2. The problem it presents. And 3. Action that can be taken.

This three-part series will cover and report on the information provided at that event. Let’s get to the first topic:

To Read or Not To Read

The nationwide issue of books containing graphic sexual content and images available to minor children has been lighting up news shows, talk shows, podcasts, and social media for some time.

Now the issue has come home to McDowell County where a list of more than 40 books were presented to the McDowell County School Board for review or removal. McDowell County School Superintendent Dr. Tracy Grit responded to the public outcry over the books in a piece submitted to the McDowell News.

In it, he explained the district has an established process for the review of books that come under scrutiny and the board is highly influenced by the Supreme Court case Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982). Part of that process, he explained was to temporarily remove the books in question until the review process was complete.

The case referenced, filed on behalf of a group of students against the Board of Education, argued that the board’s actions of removing the books had denied respondents their rights under the First Amendment.

In that case, the Court ruled in plurality, not a majority, which means the ruling is not binding, but merely persuasive, according to Summa and the United States Courts (

“Furthermore,” she added, “I think there has been a bit of misunderstanding about the Pico decision. The case did not say that the First Amendment protects, ‘pervasively vulgar’ or ‘educationally unsuitable books.’”

She went on to clarify the decision applies solely to the removal of books, not to books yet to be purchased. This, she says, is a critical reason for the community to be engaged in the procurement process as well.

Dr. Grit agreed to establish a public/school advisory committee to review the books in question required by state law (NC General Statute 115C-98). He also committed to abide by the ruling of the committee’s recommendation on the list of books.

In her presentation, attorney Summa emphasized the importance of parents getting on the committee to have a voice in the process. She also pointed out the importance of learning the district’s process for choosing books, definitions of age-appropriate, and who determines literary value.

One question posed by an attendee was, “Is a librarian trained to determine literary value? And a book that has literary value for a 20-year-old is vastly different than literary value for a 9- to 11-year-old?

What The Law Says And Doesn’t Say

Summa shared that the N.C. General Assembly has a law that gives local boards of education the authority to establish community media advisory committees.

These committees are charged with investigating and evaluating challenges from parents, teachers, and members of the public regarding objectionable books on the grounds that they are educationally unsuitable, pervasively vulgar, or inappropriate because of the age, grade level, or maturity of the student.

The law requires the establishment of guidelines to be followed by community media advisory committees.

“Thus far,” she said, “that law has been ignored and it is time for the N.C General Assembly to establish that criteria in North Carolina law.”

Summa believes that the law is ineffective in its broadness and her organization encourages parents and guardians to push their state representatives for more specific state-wide criteria.

NC Values proposed specific criteria for all materials on school property, including library and classroom materials, donated materials, and those sold at book fairs. The following are the criteria they would like to see included in the law:

  • Supports and enriches students’ personal learning and the standard course of study for grades and courses offered at the school;
  • Meets high standards in literary, artistic, and aesthetic quality, as well as technical aspects and physical format;
  • Is appropriate for the subject area and the age, intellectual development, and ability level of the students for whom the materials are selected and received access level designation;
  • For non-fiction resources incorporate accurate and authentic factual content from authoritative sources;
  • Balanced financial cost with need;
  • Should not contain material that is not pervasively vulgar or in violation of NCGS 14-190.1;
  • For fiction, narrative non-fiction, including memoirs and biographies, and graphic novels, in addition to other requirements of the subsection, a determination that the book is:
    • Integral to the instructional program
    • Reflects the learning needs of the students and school personnel;
    • Is appropriate for the reading levels and understanding of students;
    • Is included because of the library book’s literary or artistic value;
    • If narrative nonfiction, presents information with accuracy and clarity.

In his article, Dr. Grit further stated the majority of the books have been in the school libraries for decades. Slightly contrary was a school board member’s statement, “These books have been in our library for 40 years.”

However, research at the United States Library of Congress on each of the book’s dates of publication places the oldest publisher’s copyright date in 1993. That book was Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison for Random House Publishing. The remainder have copyright publishing dates starting in 2004 to 2021.

The law also requires that content access designation must be assigned to all books. NC Value’s proposal would go further by allowing parental access for review in the selection process.

The designation, much like a rating system, would reflect grade levels for which the book is appropriate based on the age and intellectual development of the students.

Additionally, the process would require student access to be limited to the corresponding grade levels. The content designations include:

  • Elementary: Library books for students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade.
  • Middle School: Library books for students in grades sixth through eighth grade.
  • High School: Library books for students in grades ninth through twelfth grade.

All books that are being considered for the library are to be available for parental review a minimum of 30 days prior to consideration by posting a list of the books on the school’s website.

The proposal would also call for an advisory board to be established that would be responsible for investigating and evaluating any challenges from parents, teachers, and members of the public because they do not conform with the stated criteria.

Should parents disagree with the book’s approval by the advisory board, they have redress to appeal the decision of the advisory board to the school board for consideration.

Summa advises parents and grandparents to be aware of these laws and work within their respective counties to ensure enforcement and adherence. She also advises parents to speak up and challenge books that don’t meet the legal criteria and comply with NC SS 115C-76.55, which governs elementary and secondary education.

“This is not your typical event,” she said, “This is a grassroots, influencer movement to take this information to your communities and help get legislation passed.”

pavement education project - Obscene Books, Minor’s Medical Rights, And The Parental Rights Law

What You Can Do

Also in attendance was the advocacy organization Pavement Education Project (PEP) which has been working across the state to educate parents and families on what they say are inappropriate books in school libraries.

PEP is also a grassroots campaign that focuses on informing parents about issues in education. Their staff have read, reviewed, and exposed books that are harmful to minors throughout the state, said Jim Walsh of the organization.

“Many of these books violate NC General Statue 14-190.1 (Obscene literature and exhibitions) and NC General Stature 14-190.15 (Disseminating Harmful Material to Minors),” he said.

He encourages parents to speak to their legislators to enforce The Parent’s Bill of Rights (SL 2023-106) which gives parents the right to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of their minor children. The statute went into effect on August 15, 2023, but, according to Summa, is being ignored by some counties across the state.

North Carolina State Superintendent of Education Catherine Truitt petitioned the General Assembly for a delay in the implementation of SL 2023-106 to allow school boards throughout the state to address the requirements.

While the request is not uncommon, parents need to be engaged with their local school board to be informed of its progress on implementation.

The Parent’s Bill of Rights holds schools and school personnel responsible for providing transparent curriculums, materials, and health care changes or concerns. Additionally, Walsh adds, it will prevent sex education and gender identity instruction in kindergarten through 4th grade.

“We encourage you to get involved in the education of the children in our state. With the declining academic performance and increasing mental health issues among our young, it is time to advocate for positive change,” said Walsh.

Get Engaged:

The following is a list of meeting times for your McDowell County Board of Education and your McDowell County Commissioners:

  • McDowell County Board of Education: Monthly: 2nd Monday at 6 p.m. at 334 S. Main Street, Marion, NC
  • McDowell County Commissioners: Monthly: 2nd Monday at 5 p.m. and the 3rd Monday at 11:30 a.m. at 69 N. Main Street, Marion, NC

Part Two of this series will be published next week and will focus on the Parents Bill of Rights.

For more information and resources visit and


Tina is a long-time resident of McDowell County with a passion for helping business owners operate from a Christian, servant-led perspective. She is a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mother.  As a business owner, marketing professional, and journalist, she has studied Christian business models and worked with business coaches to learn how to effectively operate in a worldly business environment from a Godly perspective. She believes that when we dare to serve, we succeed in life, and business


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