Another day, another school board attempting to ban books that reference subjects like racism, LGBTQ+ rights, and the Holocaust.
This time, a Texas school district near Fort Worth is removing and reviewing dozens of books that were previously “challenged” by parents, and are now being reviewed again per the school board’s new policy. The titles include the Bible, an illustrated adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, and more, according to The Texas Tribune.
“Just got word that today, the day before school starts, @KellerISD has informed teachers & librarians to remove all previously challenged books from school shelves,” one Keller Independent School District parent wrote in a Twitter thread on August 16. “Even the books that passed the challenge committees. The Diary of Anne Frank, Graphic Nov. is on this list.” She added that the books listed had already been through “the official district established challenge committee process” but after they all passed, “our extremist Christian nationalist school board decided the process was ‘rigged.’”
Earlier this week, the Tribune obtained a copy of an email sent to school staff and librarians from Keller ISD curriculum director Jennifer Price, directing employees to quickly pull any books that have received formal complaints off the shelves.
“By the end of today, I need all books pulled from the library and classrooms,” Price’s email reads. “More information will be sent regarding action for these books … Once this has been completed, please email me a confirmation. We need to ensure this action is taken by the end of today.”
In 2021, the Texas Education Agency investigated Keller ISD for having “sexually explicit” books, following Gov. Greg Abbott’s comments that the state needs to do more to keep “porn” out of schools, according to The Dallas Morning News.
But since then, the Keller ISD school board adopted new policies that put these books up for another review. The new guidelines also state that any books librarians or teachers hope to purchase must first go through 30 days of public review. And any books that have raised concerns from parents or school board trustees cannot be displayed on shelves until after they have been reviewed.
All of this is due, in part, to the board adding three new conservative members, whose campaigns received unprecedented funding from the Christian political action committee Patriot Mobile Action and who ran on the over-hyped issue of critical race theory.
The Bible had been challenged by a parent in November, according to The New York Post, who said it contained “Inappropriate content including: Sexual content, violence including rape, murder, human sacrifice, misogyny, homophobia, discrimination, and other inappropriate content,” though the complaint was eventually withdrawn. But there were additional challenges in Februrary that said “it is a map to slavery, incest, sex between donkey and women, misogyny, murder, pedophilia you name it, it’s in there.”
“I would like to remind everyone that the list of challenged books was not created by Keller ISD or any Keller ISD employee, but by parents and community members,” reads a statement from the district’s superintendent, who added that 50 copies of the “Diary of Anne Frank have remained in circulation” and that only the graphic novel adaptation had been challenged. The statement did not provide a timeline for when the books are expected to be returned to shelves.
Regardless of where the guidance did, or did not, come from, the fact that the very books that encourage young people to learn about the past, the systemic oppression of people of color, or the ability to explore sexuality have been “challenged” is entirely by design. It’s also part of a larger conservative effort to incite moral panic around ideas of liberation and equality, and to reinvent the school curriculum that paints their own political and religious views in a positive light. Earlier this month, a Florida teacher quit after posters of Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr, and other Black historical figures were taken down for being “age-inappropriate.” Also this month, a Tennessee district attorney said in a viral video she wanted to prosecute librarians for keeping queer books on shelves (before back-peddling). And in June, a 30-year-old in Maryland vandalized two libraries, spray-painting the word “groomer” across the entrance reportedly because they housed “welcoming spaces” for LGBTQ+ folks.
While the right has deemed books about race, gender, LGBTQ+ rights, sex education, or anything that even remotely revolves around bodily autonomy as inappropriate or offensive, I reckon the only thing actually inappropriate in those libraries are the board members.