A day before the start of school for its roughly 35,000 students, the Keller Independent School District announced a last-minute review of dozens of books that had been challenged in the previous school year, according to an email. obtained by the Washington Post. While these conflicts had already been resolved by book committees made up of parents, librarians, administrators and teachers, policies adopted earlier this month by the new school board triggered the recall of 41 publications, including classics like Toni Morrison”The bluest eye.”
The council cited parents’ concerns over mature content, including depictions of sexual activity. But in November, a parent also expressed opposition to “any variation” of the Bible in schools. A second challenge followed in December, and although a board review initially determined that the Bible would remain at the library’s current location, it was also caught up by Tuesday’s sweep.
The removal of the adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary has drawn backlash since it was announced. In a joint statement Wednesday, the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and its Council on Jewish Community Relations expressed disappointment with the decision and urged the school district to “return the book on the shelf.
“It is imperative that we teach our children about the Holocaust in an age-appropriate manner, as outlined in the Texas State Standards for Holocaust Education,” the statement said. “At a time of rising anti-Semitism, we must be especially vigilant that nothing like the Holocaust ever happens again.”
A The school district spokesperson told the Post that “books that meet the new guidelines will be returned to libraries as soon as they are confirmed to comply with the new policy.” In a Facebook postboard chairman Charles Randklev said the review was necessary “to protect children from sexually explicit content”.
But for Hawes, whose four children are students in the district, the decision to remove the books from the shelves underscores how much politics has seeped into school boards – a trend playing out across the United States.
“These are people who want to bring political culture wars into our schools,” Hawes told the Post. “We can have these fights all we want elsewhere, but don’t bring them to my kids’ schools.”
The book’s challenges are not new, but they have feverishly intensified over the past year as a growing right-wing movement embraces them as a topic of political discussion. an april report from PEN America, a free speech organization, found that 1,586 books were banned in 86 school districts from July 2021 to March 2022, affecting more than 2 million students. Texas – where a lawmaker distributed a 850 pound watchlist last year – ranked above the other 25 states that have bans, with 713 book bans, according to the report.
At Keller Schools, the list of challenged books includes LGBTQ touchstones like Alison Bechdel’s”Fun Home: A Tragicomic Family”; volumes of poetry like Rupi Kaur’s”milk and honey”; and young adult novels like Jesse Andrews”Me and Earl and the dying girl” and the throne of glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Many focus on gay or transgender characters. All had been reviewed by district book committees – some having been approved, removed or age limits imposed.
In the spring, Hawes – one of the parents on the book committee – had been called in to investigate a complaint about Ari Folman and David Polonsky. adaptation of “A girl’s diary.” Based on the full version of Anne Frank’s diary, it has been praised by the New York Times book review as “so attractive and effective that it’s easy to imagine it replacing the Diary in classrooms and among young readers. The novel illustrates the hope and despair Frank felt while hiding from the Nazis in a tiny annex. But it also includes some of his references to female genitalia and a possible attraction to women. The parent who complained about the book didn’t show up for the book committee’s review, so it’s unclear what that person objected to, Hawes said.
The roughly eight-person committee ultimately voted to keep the book—but only in middle and high school libraries because it was labeled a young adult novel.
“We were so excited because we thought we saved this book and did our duty,” Hawes said. “And then the school board election happened the following week and the dynamic of the school board changed.”
Keller is one of 20 School districts in Tarrant County, a politically divided area where Joe Biden won by just 1,826 votes in the 2020 presidential election. The election results sparked a conservative push to take over county school boards, Hawes said. Patriot Mobile Action, a Christian political action committee based in Texas, supported and funded campaigns of 11 school board candidates across the county, all of whom won. Three of them joined Keller’s seven-person board of directors in May.
One of their first moves was to revisit the district’s book selection. On August 8the new board adopted two policies approved by the state Department of Education regarding the acquisition and exam teaching materials and library books.
During that August 8 meeting, some parents thanked the new board for its expedited attempts to “remove sexually explicit pornographic material” — efforts, one mother said, that began the previous October, when the right wing twitter account TikTok Libs showed that the school had a copy of Maia Kobabe”Gender Queer: A Memoirwhich has been contested in many districts.
Hawes acknowledged that not all books are suitable for all children. But “calling them porn ends the whole conversation because we’re not in the same reality,” she said.
“We can agree or disagree, but these are important and reasonable conversations that we need to have as parents,” Hawes said.
“How are we suddenly in a place where we can’t listen to each other or find some kind of compromise?” she added.