Governor Abbott calls for standards to rid school libraries of ‘pornographic’ books and images

Republican Governor Greg Abbott calls on educational agencies in Texas to develop statewide standards to prevent children from being exposed to “pornography or other inappropriate content” in public schools, the latest salvo in an ongoing political battle for the books.

“As you know, a growing number of parents of Texas students are rightly outraged by books and other highly inappropriate content in public school libraries,” Abbott wrote in his letter to education officials Monday. “The most disturbing cases include clearly pornographic material, which has absolutely no place in the Texas public education system.”

The letter was sent to the Texas Education Agency, which oversees preschool through high school education for more than 5.5 million students; the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, which provides support to libraries; and the State Board of Education, which sets policies and standards for Texas public schools.

As an example, Abbott cited the Keller Independent School District, which recently removed Maia Kobabe’s book “Gender Queer: a Memoir” from one of its high school libraries after receiving complaints from parents about the drawings. pornographic book, according to Fort Worth. Star-Telegram.

The governor also cited the Leander Independent School District, which recently removed six books from high school book club lists over concerns about inappropriate content, including Carmen Maria Machado’s “In the Dream House” book, which includes a sex scene. The district, in a statement, described the inclusion of books on book club lists following a “break in our process.”

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and State Board of Education Chairman Keven Ellis said Monday their agencies will comply with the request.

“The Texas Education Agency takes Gov. Abbott’s call to action on this matter of great importance to the families of Texas public school students seriously,” Morath said in a statement.

Ellis echoed his feelings.

“As Governor Abbott has accurately stated, a growing number of parents are rightly bothered, and yes, outraged by highly inappropriate books and other resources appearing in public school libraries,” Ellis said in a statement. “Our public school families across Texas should be assured that their children are not at risk of being exposed to pornographic and obscene material while they are in school.”

Monday’s letter follows a similar letter Abbott sent last week to the Texas Association of School Boards, asking the group to work with its members to resolve the issue.

However, in a statement, the group said it did not have the regulatory authority to set such a standard. In addition, school boards do not generally make decisions about library materials, but rather professional district staff.

“Of course, school counselors care deeply about parent concerns and community feedback,” said TASB spokesperson Theresa Gage. “That’s why local school boards have policies and processes in place for parents to voice concerns about any matter affecting their local school community, including the challenge of library materials. “

Abbott criticized the group for “abdicating all responsibility in the case” and for “negligence” in attacking the new generation of state agencies on Monday. He reiterated that it is illegal to provide pornography to anyone under the age of 18 under Texas law.

The new standards set by TEA and other agencies, Abbott said, should provide transparency about what books are taught in classrooms and offered in school libraries and how they are vetted. Standards should also require parents to be informed of how to grieve when they identify inappropriate material.

Abbott’s letter comes after a member of Texas House launched a related investigation.

State Representative Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, candidate for Attorney General of Texas, asked more than a dozen major school districts in Texas if they have certain books on topics ranging from sexuality human to systemic racism. Krause’s list of 800 titles includes Pulitzer Prize winners and other acclaimed books, such as “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Districts were given a deadline of Friday to respond.

Krause said the purpose of the investigation is to verify that schools are in compliance with new laws passed by the legislature that govern what can be taught about race and sexuality, including one that aims to combat teaching critical race theory, an academic concept that argues that racism is rooted in American laws and institutions.

The law has already confused some districts, with Carroll ISD making headlines last month advising teachers to include books showing the “opposite” perspective when teaching about the Holocaust.

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