Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick seeking to regulate school libraries

Texas lawmakers will wade into the fight over banned books and school libraries ahead of the next legislative session.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican seeking reelection, wants the Senate Education Committee to take stock of public schools’ policies for how titles end up on campus libraries as one of their interim charges. He specifically asked members to recommend measures that would ensure all library materials are age-appropriate and that parents have a way to publicly search through them.

Patrick’s charge comes as the culture war over what students read continues to swell. Conservative state leaders have repeatedly attempted to label titles about gender and sexuality as “pornographic” and are urging districts to purge their buildings of them. Also under scrutiny are many books about America’s history of racism and stories that center Black characters or people of color.

A spokesman for Patrick was not immediately available for comment.

Education advocates have denounced statewide efforts to restrict students’ book access as a partisan attack on diverse stories that help children learn about themselves and those different from them.

Last month, a group of Texas House Republicans sent a letter asking districts to pledge they won’t partner with book vendors that supply “pornographic materials” to campuses.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking also reelection, had previously directed the state’s education agency, State Board of Education and Texas’ library and archives commission to develop standards to prevent the presence of “pornography and other obscene content” in schools.

Meanwhile on Monday, the American Library Association released a new report highlighting an unprecedented number of book ban attempts. Most targeted books, the association found, were written by or about Black or LGBT people.

Several North Texas school districts have removed books from libraries under pressure from state leadership.

It’s part of a troubling trend, civil rights groups warn.

The ACLU of Texas, for example, recently sent a letter to Granbury ISD leaders accusing them of violating students’ First Amendment rights by disappearing books off library shelves. Keller ISD is meanwhile under a Texas Education Agency investigation after a complaint about library books with “sexually explicit content.” They’ve been reviewing dozens of challenged books behind closed doors.

A coalition of organizations also recently launched a “Teach the Truth” campaign to oppose book ban attempts in Texas.

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