There is no ‘practice of filming pornography’ in Arizona schools 

By: - June 2, 2023 4:52 pm

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A Republican state senator is urging the Arizona governor to sign a bill that would end the “practice of filming pornography in K-12 schools,” something that is currently not allowed or encouraged at public schools in the state. 

Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, put out a statement earlier this week asking Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs to sign his Senate Bill 1696, which would make it illegal for sexually explicit acts to be filmed or facilitated on property owned, leased or managed by the state or any other government entity in Arizona. 

But the bill also stops workers for any government agency in the state from referring minors to sexually explicit materials, which could stop public librarians from referring teens to some classic works of literature and even informative books about reproduction and puberty. 

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“I think we are in good order to cover both topics at once,” Hoffman said during a Senate Government committee meeting in February. “I don’t want minors in Arizona being exposed to sexually explicit materials.” 

While Hoffman’s recent statement seemed to imply that the filming of pornography at public schools was a widespread issue, the bill is based on one incident in Mohave County last year. The two teachers involved were a married couple who both worked for Lake Havasu Unified School District. 

“Certainly calling one isolated incident a ‘practice of filming pornography’ is misleading,” Democratic Sen. Priya Sundareshan, of Tucson, told the Arizona Mirror. “Hopefully the governor will veto it. This is definitely not a widespread practice.” 

Hoffman told the Senate Government Committee in February that he believed the bill was necessary after a science teacher at Thunderbolt Middle School filmed explicit content for her OnlyFans channel, a subscriber-based service often used by adult content providers, after hours, at the school. 

The teacher resigned Oct. 31, after students found her OnlyFans content online. Her husband, who was sometimes featured on her channel and who worked at another school in the district, was let go several days later. 

“Astonishingly, there is no law that prohibits this from happening,” Hoffman said in the statement. “These are places where our children go to learn, they should not be locations for the adult entertainment industry. It’s an egregious misuse of taxpayer-funded property, and it needs to end.”

Hoffman did not respond to an interview request for this story. 

Robert J. Campos, a former Maricopa County prosecutor in the sex crimes division and currently a Phoenix defense attorney, agreed with Hoffman’s take that there are not likely any crimes on the books in Arizona that specifically outlaw filming sexually explicit material on school property. 

But in his eyes, this issue would be better served through employer policy than criminal law.

“It sounds like overkill to me,” Campos told the Mirror. “I think it sounds rather drastic to pass a law when you’ve had one incident.”

He added that laws regarding sexual behavior and minors in Arizona typically pertain to sexual activity when a child is present, or involved, or exposing minors to sexually explicit materials, but not to filming content when children are not present. 

The rest of the bill, pertaining to exposing minors to sexually explicit material, has caused concerns for some Democrats. 

Their most significant concerns had to do with the breadth of the bill, which could essentially mean a ban on public libraries making classic works of literature available to minors if those works contain any sexual content, Sundereshan said. 

Sundareshan, who has had two children in the past three years, said that she checked out a book from her local library that extensively covered the process of pregnancy, to help her understand how her body would change. And that book included descriptions of the entire process of pregnancy, including how it begins. She worries informational books like those would no longer be available at public libraries if this law is passed. 

“I benefited from public libraries having the ability to provide me with scientifically accurate information,” she said. 

While SB1696 would apply to schools, the legislature already passed a bill last year, when Republican Doug Ducey was in the governor’s office, that bars schools from using sexually explicit content or referring students to it. 

During a House Government Committee meeting on March 15, Republican Rep. John Gillette, of Kingman, said that he believed some sexually explicit books should be banned, saying that one book intended for middle schoolers included photos of sex acts that he did not believe was appropriate to show to sixth graders. Gillette did not share the name of the book. 

The bill was approved by the House May 15 and the Senate March 2, both along party lines. It was sent to Hobbs to either sign or veto on May 30. 

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Caitlin Sievers
Caitlin Sievers

Caitlin joined the Arizona Mirror in 2022 with almost 10 years of experience as a reporter and editor, holding local government leaders accountable from newsrooms across the West and Midwest. She's won statewide awards in Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin for reporting, photography and commentary.

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