In March 2022, several Republican state representatives asked Texas school district officials to pledge not to buy books from vendors that have supplied schools with what the lawmakers deem pornography.

State Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, sent a letter on March 2 to Texas districts asking school officials to sign the pledge. In his letter, Patterson said children across Texas have been exposed to material such as “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a graphic novel that has become a lightning rod both nationwide and in Texas among some parents and Republican officials.

“Respectfully, I ask you to take this pledge on behalf of every Texas child in public schools who doesn't deserve to be exposed to obscene materials,” Patterson said.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, depicts the author’s experiences growing up and struggling to identify as gay, bisexual or asexual. The book contains explicit illustrations depicting oral sex, which have outraged many parents and state leaders.

The letter was signed by an additional 26 Republican lawmakers, including state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, who initially compiled a list of some 850 books about race and sexuality that he sent to school districts asking for information about how many are available on their campuses.

On Tuesday, the Canyon Independent School District published letters to staff, parents, and Rep. Patterson concerning the district's response to the pledge. 

“Regarding the pledge, it is not Canyon ISD’s practice to sign non-binding pledges drafted by third parties. The language in the pledge is undefined, particularly the portion referencing “obscene books”. Every individual could have a differing opinion on what is “obscene”. Complying with the pledge apparently expects school districts to evaluate every title ever sold by a vendor to public schools prior to choosing to purchase from that vendor," Canyon ISD Superintendent Darryl Flusche wrote a letter to parents and staff.

In the letter to Rep. Patterson, Flusche and the Board of Trustees noted that Canyon ISD did not sign the pledge, since “we do not feel comfortable that a non-binding pledge leaving many important terms undefined and subject to a wide variety of interpretations advances our efforts.” 

“We are also concerned that the subjectivity of some of the key terms used in the letter could unintentionally create legal liability depending on future definitions,” Flusche and the Board of Trustees said.

In November 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott cited “Gender Queer” when directing the Texas Education Agency to investigate criminal activity related to "the availability of pornography. Abbott also cited the book when directing the TEA, Texas State Library and Archives Commission and State Board of Education to develop standards to block books with "overtly sexual” content in schools.

Shannon Holmes, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said in a statement that pornography has a legal definition and not everything a person finds distasteful meets that definition.

"ATPE urges school districts to recognize the power of the elected school board to work with parents and educators to find the right balance for their local communities and avoid getting caught up in these types of politically motivated pledges,” Holmes said.

The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) noted in a statement that once a resource has been made available in a school library, its removal implicates students’ First Amendment rights.

Flusche and the Board of Trustees said that Canyon ISD has taken steps to establish an Instructional Resources Committee composed of parents, educators, and professional staff, to review challenged instructional materials. 

Canyon ISD also noted the following:

1. The district is in agreement that inappropriate materials should not be available in our schools nor in our libraries.

2. Through the years, the district has adhered to board policy for removal of library materials due to protections by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court decision in 1982, Board of Education v. Pico, established that the district cannot arbitrarily remove books from the library because it disagrees with the subject matter.

3. The CISD Board of Trustees will be considering the new model policy offered by the Texas Education Agency in April. The suggested policy offered districts a draft process to remove library books that do not meet acceptable standards.

4. Additionally, Canyon ISD has enhanced the process for purchasing library books to engage parents and the community to review lists of book titles for a time period prior to their purchase; and to submit a form to omit a title prior to an order being placed.

5. Each parent can restrict access of their child to any specific library books by informing the school.

"There are approximately 1,100 school districts in Texas and only 31 have signed this pledge. Despite this data, we believe that districts across Texas, including Canyon ISD, would rather not purchase nor retain library books that fall below an acceptable standard.

"With the new TEA guidance, we believe that we have an avenue to pursue a solution in CISD rather than expecting individual districts to conduct an evaluation of the sales history of each vendor," Flusche said.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post