EducationStatewide NewsAbbott Asks Public Entities to Vet Obscenity From Public School Libraries, Classrooms After Private Request Dead-Ends

This is Abbott's second attempt, broader in scope than the first. His initial request to the Texas Association of School Boards dead-ended.
November 8, 2021
After his first request to a private association of school board members failed, Governor Greg Abbott has directed three public entities to vet pornographic content from Texas public schools.

In a letter today, Abbott called on the Texas Education Agency (TEA), State Board of Education (SBOE), and Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) to create a vetting process to keep obscene books out of “school and library materials.”

“I am directing the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and the State Board of Education to immediately develop statewide standards to prevent the presence of pornography and other obscene content in Texas public schools, including in school libraries,” the letter reads.

“These standards must ensure transparency about the materials being taught in the classroom and offered in school libraries. They must also ensure that our schools have an appropriate and transparent process, which includes parents and community members, to vet school and library materials before they are used. Additionally, parents should be informed of the formal grievance process, in the event an inappropriate book is identified.”

Each entity plays a different role in the Texas public education system.

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The TEA is a state agency that oversees public schools in Texas. It monitors schools’ performance and compliance with state law. The TEA also handles the distribution of state and federal funds to local schools.

The SBOE, on the other hand, is a democratically elected body of members. Graduation rules, instructional materials, and the state curriculum are all responsibilities of the SBOE. It has the most direct control over what subjects are taught in Texas public schools.

The TSLAC sets standards for public school libraries. For the most part, these standards do not regulate the content of books in the libraries.

Unlike these groups, TASB is a private association of school board trustees across the state. Abbott asked TASB on November 1 to voluntarily set up a vetting process to keep obscene content out of public school libraries.

Today’s letter is wider in scope. While Abbott’s letter to TASB only referred to library books, his letter to these governmental entities includes classroom materials as well.

It includes two examples of books Abbott deems pornographic: Gender Queer, a graphic novel that includes visually drawn sex scenes, and In The Dream House, which describes sexual acts verbally. Parental pressure led to the removal of each book from two school districts.

The letter includes no examples of obscene classroom materials.

Under a new state law that takes effect in December, schools must give parents access to the classroom materials their children use.

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath and SBOE Chairman Keven Ellis both stated that they agreed with Abbott and would work to create library standards to keep pornographic material out of public school libraries.

Abbott’s requests follow a similar inquiry launched by state Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth). Krause asked the TEA in late October to provide a full accounting of some allegedly obscene or racially charged books from every school district.

Parents’ concerns over transparency in public schools shaped local election results across Texas last week.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.