Opponents of the review call it an ideological effort. Some supporters say it’s not far enough.
They all struggle with the task of interpreting complex problems in a limited time.
Involvement of government officials
Although some parents have expressed concern about this for years, a state spokesman, Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), pulled the library book issue into the middle of the state’s political brawl when he asked the Texas school system in October to report and the value of some books that are considered politically controversial in their libraries. Acting as head of the Texas House of Representatives, Krause – who was also running for Texas attorney general at the time – compiled a 16-page list of books he called sexually explicit or racial, and called on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to find out how many was in Texas public school libraries and what price the schools paid.
Governor Greg Abbott soon raised the issue, eventually asking TEA, the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the State Library and Archives Commission to work on a verification process to ensure that pornographic materials do not end up in school libraries and classroom materials.
However, Texas law gives broad powers to local school systems. Ultimately, government officials say little about which books end up in libraries. As a result, some school systems have voluntarily begun to revise their books, while others have not.
Granbury ISD removed 131 books from the shelves for review, but eventually removed five, a decision that put Granbury ISD superintendent Jeremy Glenn between stone and anvil.
The Granbury ISD trial has sparked a wave of accusations that it targets transgender people. In response, Glen defended the district’s choice to remove five books by young adult writer Abby Gleins for “clarity”.
“Unlike you,” Glenn told critics, “I’ve actually read what’s in these books, and I’m proud to have them off the shelves.”
Although media attention eventually subsided, controversy in the North Texas area is still smoldering. Citizens spoke on the same topic at the board meeting last week, based on the same arguments.
Hood County Democratic Party Chair Adrien Martin accused the council of pursuing a “fictional boogieman” and said the school board noticed and may have contributed to bullying LGBT students.
“Like most Democrats, I am a supporter of public education and have a deep belief in the democratic values of equality, inclusion and diversity. In my opinion, this council and the superintendent have proved that they do not support these values, ”Martin said.
On the other side of the aisle, some members of the committee that was set up to review the Granbury ISD library collection say the district has accelerated the process and quickly sent almost all the books back to the library shelves.
Citizen Monica Brown, who was particularly interested in the issue, said the county spent very little time reviewing most of the books.
“At these two meetings, they approved 100 books to return to the shelves. And if you look, the meetings were less than 3 hours each. So, on average, the book took no more than 4 minutes to even think about, ”Brown said.
Another committee member, Karen Lowry, backed Brown’s assessment of the meetings.
“They assigned 10 books to two people and we had to look at them, look at some of the reviews they gave, look at the book that was there, look at the cover. We were given about 20 minutes to read 10 books, and then we took our ten books and gave a brief description of them, ”Lowry said.
“They returned the books, and then when Monica came, we both really started working together, and we started doing in-depth reviews of the books: looking for them, looking for where to borrow them online for a while, and researching exactly what was in these books. And when we did, we were surprised and outraged that such books are in school libraries. “
According to the district, 116 of the 131 suspected books were returned to the shelves.
However, the citizens concerned say Glenn’s efforts are sincere.
Granbury Mayor Jim Gerrat, who spoke on the issue at school board meetings as a person, said he spoke to Glen on Monday and said he was working with Brown and other citizens on the plan.
“He’s a man who wants there to be no such thing in school,” Jarrat said.
The biggest obstacle is time. Brown acknowledges the enormity of the task of reviewing every book in the library, but primarily suggests a clearer process for selecting books.
“I think that’s a great question,” Brown said when asked what the perfect book review process involves.
“So there has to be a better evaluation process and it has to be really clear. There must therefore be educational value. Obviously, there can be no sexual nature [material]. And then, to remove it, school boards are responsible, as we understand it. “
Lowry responded similarly, noting that an honest, comprehensive review requires depth that people define differently.
“It’s hard to say because there are good ways, but it will take time. You will have to go through libraries. You will need to look at these books. Some people may want to read them from cover to cover, ”Lowry said.
“It should be a better process than it was with this first review committee. Books need to be watched, they need to be taken home. You need to be able to turn every page, read a little and see what is in the book.
Brown tries to rate books just like movies by assigning PG-13 ratings to books that have, for example, unnoticed nudity or drug use. The original list of books on review in the area can be read here.
The quality of the challenged books further complicates the review process.
Some of the books seem to inhabit less ambitious corners of adult fiction, such as the 176-page novel by Kathleen Johnson Gone, surrounded by mediocre reviews and exhibited primarily – even in the Booklist – as a saturated thriller: “Johnson’s overly poetic voice often intervenes. However, teenagers will be attracted by the spicy photo on the cover, ”the American Library Association said.
Others, such as Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-fivewidely regarded as literary masterpieces.
Neither Glenn nor ISD Curriculum Director Grace Stacy Brown, who chairs the book review committee, responded to requests for comment.
“We do not ban or burn books.”
Citizens, who are calling for tighter scrutiny, say they are disappointed with the way their opponents have described them.
“We do not ban or burn books. We’re just trying to say, let’s set a limit for these books, ”Lowry said.
“It is absolutely unsuitable for children. So review them before they go to the library. ”
Brown said she appreciates diversity and would really like to have more books in the library.
“There are wonderful books that aren’t on their shelves,” Brown said.
“So that’s what I’m also trying to do to get the books. And not just me. Many others say, “Let’s go and change the story. Let’s talk about what we can talk about with the kids, read a book and talk about it. “
Brown stressed that many of the books she would like to remove do not reflect LGBT attitudes, insisting that she focuses on how revealing the book is, rather than on what attitudes it describes.
Hood County Democratic Party President Mendy Taket, who also closely monitored the issue, did not respond to comment.