Texas Gov. Abbott Joins Battle for Books, Says “Porn” Content Shouldn’t Be in Schools

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A week after a Texas House member opened an investigation into race and sexuality books in public schools, Governor Greg Abbott blamed local school boards for protecting students from “inappropriate content.” “.

The governor wrote Monday at the Texas Association of School Boards, an organization that has no role in approving programs or texts for students, that “pornographic images and substance” have no place in schools.

“A growing number of parents of Texas students are increasingly alarmed by some of the books and other content found in public school libraries that are grossly inappropriate in the public education system,” Abbott wrote.

Abbott did not provide specific examples in his letter. Spokesperson Renae Eze reported a recent instance in Keller ISD where the district pulled a book from the library after a parent complained about graphic sexual images in a high school library book.

The governor noted in his letter that school libraries in Texas are governed by individual districts while textbooks are subject to supervision by the State Board of Education. Districts are generally overseen by school trustees elected locally to school boards.

Thus, TASB members have “an obligation to determine the extent to which such materials exist or are used in our schools and to remove any such content,” Abbott wrote.

He also called on TASB to ensure transparency around material taught in the classroom and to ensure that each school has an appropriate and transparent process to control library materials before they are used. Districts largely have processes in place to assess library books and other content questioned by parents.

TASB officials were confused upon receiving Abbott’s letter because their organization has “no regulatory authority over school districts and does not set standards for educational materials, including library books,” wrote spokesperson Theresa Gage via email.

The primary responsibilities of school boards include establishing strategic plans for their districts, adopting policies at public meetings, approving a budget, and hiring a superintendent. The review and selection of library books is typically handled by district administrators, Gage noted.

“Of course, school counselors care deeply about parent concerns and community feedback,” she said. “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. “

A copy of the letter was also sent to officials at the Texas Education Agency, State Board of Education, and Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission.

Last week, Representative Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, launched a House investigation by sending an anonymous number of superintendents a letter with a list of around 850 attached books.

He asked superintendents to identify where the books were located – dealing mainly with topics of race, gender identity and sexuality – and how much money had been spent on them. Krause also asked school leaders to identify any other curriculum or book containing material dealing with human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases or any other material “that may make students feel uncomfortable, guilty, anxiety or any other form of psychological distress ”because of their race or gender.

ISD officials in Dallas and Austin said they would not respond to the letter.

Groups of teachers and education advocates decried Krause’s investigation, likening it to a witch hunt.

Across the country, politicians are stepping up pressure on schools over what is taught in the classroom. Virginia Governor’s Race was focused in part on access to books like “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, which examines the issue of slavery.

Much of the recent Texas legislative session has focused on legislation that would restrict how teachers can discuss racism and “controversial” topics in the classroom.

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The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation on pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network , Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab journalism.


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