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Book Bans Part of Texas Republican School Priorities

December 28, 2021 by Reece Nations
Book Bans Part of Texas Republican School Priorities

SAN ANTONIO — Complaints to Texas school districts regarding books that discuss topics of race and sexuality have emboldened Republican state lawmakers’ calls for reviews of the reading material.

Book reviews are now the latest priority of conservative groups which have already stood firmly against the institution of mask mandates and the teaching of critical race theory principles in public schools, as previously reported by The Well News.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive to the Texas Education Agency, Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the State Board of Education last month to remove “pornographic and inappropriate content” from public schools.

State Rep. Matt Krause, chairman of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, circulated a letter in October to Texas’ state education agency that initiated an inquiry into literature possessed by Texas school districts which may “contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” due to their race or sexual orientation. The letter was accompanied by a list of 849 books tapped by the committee for review.

“Recently, a number of Texas school districts around the state including Carroll ISD, Spring Branch ISD, Lake Travis ISD, Leander ISD, and Katy ISD, have removed books from libraries and/or classrooms after receiving objections from students, parents, and taxpayers,” Krause wrote in his letter to TEA. “I am writing to you as the chairman of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating. Pursuant to Government Code Section 301.020(a)(4), the committee may initiate inquiries concerning any ‘matter the committee considers necessary for the information of the legislature or for the welfare and protection of state citizens.’”

Krause’s letter informs the districts to identify how many copies of each book in the attached list they possess and to specify in which campus locations the books are located as well as how much the districts spent to obtain the literature. The directive aims to purge public school libraries of reading material that could violate the newly instituted “critical race theory” law, although this concept describes an academic framework that is almost exclusively taught at the college level.

Local public libraries have also begun pulling books from shelves for review to determine whether their content is age appropriate for school children. Libraries in Texas are now similarly conducting book reviews at the behest of local residents who have lodged complaints about the content of the literature.

Roosevelt Weeks, director of the Austin Public Library, issued a written statement on Monday expressing displeasure with the Republican backed inquiry into school content. The Texas Library Association and the American Library Association have also issued statements in opposition to the inquiry.

“Parents and teachers are the experts on kids and classrooms — not politicians,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a written statement. “But right now, [Gov.] Greg Abbott is continuing with his censorship crusade, and trying to place our classrooms under the rigid control of a handful of extremist politicians with no experience educating kids and no knowledge of child development. That’s backwards.” 

Hinojosa continued, “Racism, sexism, economic inequality — these are real things that affect the lives of our kids and the world around them. Kids and teens need to have a safe environment to learn about their world in an age-appropriate way — not to have their lived experience and reality erased from the textbooks because a couple [of] politicians are threatened by it.” 

Reece can be reached at reece@thewellnews.com.

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