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Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday asked the Texas Association of School Boards to determine the extent to which “pornography or other inappropriate content” exists in public schools across the state and to remove it if found.
“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 extremely inappropriate in the public education system,” Abbott wrote to Dan Troxell, executive director of the group, in a letter of November 1.
Abbott, who did not cite examples in his letter, said the organization has “an obligation to parents and students in Texas to ensure that no child in Texas is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content while in a Texas public school â.
The school organization said it was “puzzled” why the letter was sent to the association, “which has no regulatory authority over school districts and does not set standards for teaching materials, including library books “.
“The role of a school board primarily includes establishing a strategic plan for the district, adopting policies at public meetings, approving the district budget, and selecting and evaluating a principal. general, “a spokesperson for the group said in a statement. “In most school districts, the review and selection of individual library materials has traditionally been an administrative responsibility managed by professional district staff.”
Abbott’s letter follows an investigation launched by State Representative Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth running for Texas attorney general. Krause sent a letter to some school districts with a list of 850 books that included novels on racism and sexuality.
Krause’s letter asked the districts if they had these books, how many copies they had, and how much money had been spent on them. Lawmakers have since declined to provide details beyond that, saying they don’t want to “jeopardize” an ongoing or potential investigation.
Krause’s list of titles includes a number of bestsellers and winners, including the 1967 Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The list includes books that help kids respond to bullying and others that focus on LGBTQ characters, in addition to telling stories about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Democrats have accused Krause of trying to censor progressive literature after the Legislature this year passed two laws restricting the way teachers can talk about race-related topics in school. GOP lawmakers lobbied for the legislation under the pretext of opposing what they called “critical race theory.” Critical Race Theory is an academic discipline that argues that racism is ingrained in legal systems and not confined to individuals. It is taught at the university level, although it has become a common phrase used by some Republicans to include anything race-related taught or discussed in public high schools.
School districts have so far been divided on how to respond. The Fort Worth Independent School District said it will comply, while school districts in Austin, Houston and Dallas have dismissed Krause’s investigation. Other major school districts in the state said they are still reviewing the letter.
Last week, Keller ISD withdrew a book from one of its high school libraries after parents expressed concerns about the book’s graphic images.
Maia Kobabe’s book “Gender Queer: a Memoir” was mentioned by another Texas House Republican – State Representative Jeff Cason of Bedford – who called on State Attorney General Ken Paxton to launch a statewide survey of this novel and others on the same subject. . Cason also asked Paxton to examine “the legal ramifications for school districts that have approved these types of books.”
In his letter to Troxell, Abbott said that “parents have the right to protect their children from obscene content used in schools.”
“You have an obligation to parents and students in Texas to ensure that no child in Texas is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content while inside a room. Texas public school, âAbbott wrote.
Disclosure: The Texas Association of School Boards has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.