St. Landry

Jan 17, 2013 5:22 PM by Ian Auzenne

Can Parents Be Arrested for Showing Children "R"-Rated Movies?

The arrest of an Arnaudville Elementary School band teacher on charges of showing inappropriate materials to minors has caused some parents to ask on our Facebook page, "Can I be arrested for showing my children or their friends 'R'-rated movies?"

The answer is a bit complicated. Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:91.11--the law applied in this case--makes exceptions for the "spouse, parent, or guardian" of children under 18-years-old to show them "material harmful to minors." However, according to Chester Cedars, assistant district attorney in St. Martin Parish, you might want to think twice before including your kids' friends in an "R"-rated movie night. "It would be unwise to show minors a movie with vulgar language and acts because it could lead to a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile," he said. "When those children are with you," he continued, "you are not their guardian. You are their supervisor, which puts you in a risky situation if you were to show them movies with explicit content."

But aren't teachers guardians? According to Cedars, they are not; teachers fill a supervisory role while the parent is away.  Furthermore, the videos were shown in school--which, by law, is a public venue.

So, what are "inappropriate materials" for minors?  According to Louisiana Revised Statutes, the material must meet three criteria, which are based on the three-prong obscenity test laid out by the Supreme Court in the 1973 case Miller vs. California, which we have condensed into the following three questions:

1) Do these movies appeal to the "prurient, shameful, or morbid interests of minors?"
2) Are these movies "offensive to the average adult" when applying "contemporary community standards with respect to what is suitable for children?"
3) Do these movies lack "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors?"

It will be up to a court to decide whether or not they do.


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