As School Library Book Battles Rage, School Choice Offers Opportunity
The new state law regulating the use of sexually explicit books in public schools remains tied up in litigation. With this, the front line defense in monitoring sexually explicit content continues with Texas parents and other stakeholders, but the upcoming school choice legislative session might offer new opportunity.
House Bill 900, also known as the READER (Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources) Act, was set to take effect Sept. 1 and would have restricted the inclusion by libraries of harmful material and other sexual or patently offensive content as described in the Texas Penal Code. Vendors were to be responsible for rating and appropriately labeling the books.
Your article regarding Belton ISD’s updated book policy failed to mention HB 900, the law intended to protect school children from sexually explicit books, is currently being litigated in federal court. With that, the law’s implementation is on hold prompting a need for independent schoolbook vigilance to continue. And Belton isn’t the only local ISD to watch.
A recent citizen-driven audit of seven Bell County ISD libraries (Academy, Belton, Copperas Cove, Killeen, Salado, Temple and Troy) found sexually oriented books in all. The findings, illustrative though not exhaustive, were detailed in a three-part series at WBDaily.com.
Your article noted Belton parents’ ability to access the district’s library catalog via Destiny. Public school stakeholders (parents, taxpayers, community members) should know six of our seven audited districts provide the same access. Only Temple ISD keeps its catalog password protected.
Though Temple High School Library previously offered “students, teachers, and community members” information access, “community members” was removed in the time since I requested access and was instead told to file a Public Information Act request. Reporting on this additionally illustrative school transparency exercise is also at http://bit.ly/3t2Vx6T.
The three-part series referenced can be found here (Bell County: What’s in Your Public School Library? Part One, Part Two and Part Three).
Temple ISD Highlights Challenges In Library Book Transparency provides additional information for monitoring public school library content.
Parents remain engaged, enraged
Despite the READER Act’s passage, sexually provocative library books remain a hot-button issue as recently seen at a Plano ISD board meeting.
In Parents Blast Plano School Board Over Sexually Explicit Books, Texas Scorecard reports:
PLANO—After waiting five hours for a chance to speak, Plano parents blasted their elected school board trustees for failing to remove dozens of books that the district has acknowledged are sexually explicit but still decided to keep in students’ libraries.
“You are sexualizing our children and you need to stop!” Plano mom Karri Weadon told trustees and Superintendent Theresa Williams.
Speaking after the meeting, Shannon Ayres, a parent and member of Citizens Defending Freedom, reminded of the following:
“Who needs HB900? What we need are leaders who represent the values of the communities they were elected to serve. These board members have always had the power to remove this filth. They’ve chosen not to. We The People must demand better. That’s what we did tonight.”
Click here for the full Texas Scorecard Report.
When issues collide
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has scheduled a special session to start Monday, Oct. 9. This session, designated to empower parents, will address education reforms including school choice and parents having the power to choose where their children receive an education.
School districts that resist transparency or disregard parental concerns over sexually explicit library books help bolster the case for school choice. This is unfortunate on multiple levels.
School choice shouldn’t be an either-or proposition. Parents deserve options for schooling their children, but a functional public school system – one not seemingly committed to sexualizing students – is also paramount.
It is an augmentation to public schools, not a replacement. Rather than spend the next 30 days whining about money, the education industry has an opportunity to truly serve the best interests of students (and taxpayers!) by adopting a willingness to develop attractive, functional academic offerings designed to enhance a larger academic universe.
More and better offerings across the board? If it’s truly for the children, how is that a bad thing?
And one key to helping keep parents at current public schools? Clean up, de-sexualize school libraries! With parents and taxpayers watching, how sad that this wouldn’t be the easiest of school choices.
Lou Ann Anderson is a writer, former radio producer and current podcaster at Political Pursuits. Her tenure as Watchdog Wire–Texas editor involved covering state news and coordinating the site’s citizen journalist network. As a past Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity–Texas, Lou Ann wrote and spoke on a variety of issues including the growing issue of probate abuse in which wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are used to loot assets from intended heirs or beneficiaries. She holds a degree from the University of North Texas in Denton.