Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Cullman Times. April 24, 2024.

Editorial: One abused child, one too many

Just one abused child in our community — or anywhere — is one too many.

April was Child Abuse Prevention Month. The number of abuse cases reported is, quite frankly, staggering. Every year, thousands of cases are reported and investigated.

Child abuse ranges from neglect of basic care to substandard living conditions to emotional abuse to sexual abuse. Both boys and girls suffer sexual abuse, and more often than not it is from a family member or close family friend.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers these cautions to help parents and caregivers prevent and combat child sexual abuse:

— Take an active role in your children’s lives. Learn about their activities and the people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.

— Watch for “grooming” behaviors in adults who spend time with your child. Warning signs may include frequently finding ways to be alone with your child, ignoring your child’s need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom) or giving gifts or money for no particular occasion.

— Ensure that organizations, groups and teams that your children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults. Ask how staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.

— Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.

— Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “OK” and “not OK.”

— Empower children to make decisions about their bodies by allowing them age-appropriate privacy and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others, even in non-sexual ways.

— Teach children to take care of their own bodies (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.

— Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).

— Monitor children’s use of technology, including cellphones, social networking sites and messaging. Review contact lists regularly and ask about any people you don’t recognize.

— Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about leaving your child with someone, don’t do it. If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.

— If your child tells you that he or she has been abused, stay calm, listen carefully and never blame the child. Thank your child for telling you. Report the abuse right away.

Locally, we have great agencies and nonprofits raising awareness and providing services but the true tragedy is that services for abused children are ever needed. One of those is Brooks’ Place Child Advocacy Center at www.cullmancac.com/.

It cannot be said often enough: If you see something, say something.


Cullman Times. April 25, 2024.

Editorial: Library bill doesn’t check out

The Issue

The state Legislature should leave oversight of public libraries to local government rather than passing bills that will almost certainly be abused.

How ironic that the humble library, that most calm and quiet of public institutions, should become one of the loudest battlefields in the ongoing culture war.

The Alabama House of Representatives this week passed 72-28 a bill that could potentially see librarians prosecuted under the state’s obscenity law for providing “harmful” material to minors.

“Obscenity,” as vague as that term can sometimes be, has to meet a fairly strict standard under the ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. California in 1973. To be considered obscene, material must lack any “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” This is now known as the Miller test.

Alabama lawmakers propose something far broader and even harder to define in their quest to act as surrogate parents to the state’s children.

“The Alabama bill removes the existing exemption for public libraries in the state’s obscenity law,” reports The Associated Press. “It also expands the definition of prohibited sexual conduct to include any ‘sexual or gender oriented conduct’ at K-12 public schools or public libraries that ‘exposes minors to persons who are dressed in sexually revealing, exaggerated, or provocative clothing or costumes, or are stripping, or engaged in lewd or lascivious dancing, presentations, or activities.’”

This is a definition so vague it seems, on it’s face, that it could snare a librarian who happened to show kids the perennial Passover favorite “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston, which has aired on ABC nearly ever year since 1973. That scene where the Israelites revel around the golden calf can get a little racy.

But we all know what this is really all about. It’s not about “sexually revealing, exaggerated, or provocative clothing or costumes,” in general, it’s about “drag queen story hour.” That is, it’s really about banning certain points of view, and the Legislature has pulled out its broadest brush to paint a picture of viewpoint neutrality.

Under the process specified in the legislation, “a librarian in a public library or public K-12 school could face a misdemeanor charge if the librarian fails to remove material or cease conduct that violates the state’s obscenity law within seven days of receiving a written complaint from the public,” according to The AP.

This is a process ripe for abuse. Anyone can complain about anything, and they do. This would amount to librarians facing possible arrest and prosecution for failing to give in to every heckler who tries to wield the heckler’s veto.

Apart from the bill’s intrinsic problems, there’s the matter of whether micromanaging the policies of public libraries is really Montgomery’s job.

Libraries are largely funded and almost entirely governed by counties and cities, and that’s where decisions on library policies and materials best belong.

Yet, as with its quest to protect historic — that is “mostly Confederate” — monuments, the state Legislature is butting in where local officials should be making the decisions. Just as local officials and local taxpayers are the ones who pay for the upkeep of most monuments, and should thus have the say in whether they stay or go, so too with libraries.

There is simply no substitute for parental judgment in deciding what is appropriate for their own children — not for everyone’s children.

It’s an unnecessary bill that will certainly be abused and usurps local authority. The state Senate should reject it.

How ironic that many of the same politicians who once mocked Hillary Clinton when she quoted the old proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” have now set themselves up as the village elders.

The Issue The state Legislature should leave oversight of public libraries to local government rather than passing bills that will almost certainly be abused.