Keller ISD, accused last week of banning the Bible and “The Diary of Anne Frank,” adopted new content guidelines to evaluate books available in their schools’ libraries.
The guidelines prohibit texts that contain “sexually explicit conduct,” “descriptions of sexual abuse,” and “Illustrations of nude intimate body parts.”
The policy passed 4 to 2 with one abstention. President of the Keller ISD school board Dr. Charles Randklev gave the opening remarks at the meeting.
“The media has done an absolutely terrible job covering what is happening in Keller ISD,” he addressed the crowd.
“For the record, Keller ISD has not banned the Bible or Anne Frank.”
“Sexually explicit obscene content has no place in our schools. The new Keller ISD Board of Trustees and the district has acted decisively to protect our children from pornographic material.”
Dozens of people gave testimony at the meeting that lasted for hours. Detractors claimed that the content guidelines were overly vague and could lead to more books being banned than necessary.
During the Keller ISD meeting, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD was embroiled in its own discussion over the adoption of new district policies.
Part of the measure is similar to the Keller ISD book review policies aimed at eliminating “pervasively vulgar and obscene” books from their schools.
Regarding changes to curricula, the policy asserts, “The District, including its teachers and administrators, shall not teach, instruct, advocate, promote, or discuss any ideas, beliefs, or concepts that have any connection or are otherwise consistent with so-called ‘Critical Race Theory’ (CRT) or ‘systemic discrimination ideologies.’”
Outside of CRT restrictions, the policy also restricts transgender athletes’ participation in UIL sporting events and prohibits the “promotion of gender fluidity.”
The policy also allows teachers to choose whether or not to call students by their preferred pronouns if they do not match their biological sex.
The meeting was contentious, with attendees both actively supporting the changes and those that argued they were infringing upon the rights of LGBT students.
Hundreds gathered at the meeting, anticipating the outcome of the vote on the sweeping policy.
Approximately 200 people gave testimony over a five-hour period. Around midnight, the measure passed with a vote of 4 to 3.
Concerning the library content guidelines, board member Becky St. John commented, “This is an absolute affront. It’s an affront to our teachers, it’s a political bureaucracy that is going to overburden our teachers and harm our students with a political agenda.”
St. John also called the larger policy “offensive to the community.”
Board member Tammy Nakamura believes these policies will be beneficial, telling The Texan, “All we are trying to do is take the ideology out of the classrooms. Now teachers won’t have the pressure or the right to teach this material.”
The CRT prohibitions listed in the district policy closely mirror those in Senate Bill (SB) 3, the so-called “Critical Race Theory ban” that was signed into law last year by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Discussing this aspect of the policy, board member Shannon Braun told The Texan, “The stuff that we’re doing is already the law. The question then becomes, why do we have to put that into local policy?”
She claimed that even though the Texas Legislature had passed the same prohibitions on CRT, the concept continues to be pushed at the local, school district level through teacher training and student instruction.
“Were at this point where it doesn’t exist until it gets out in the public, until it’s exposed at a board meeting.”
“We are going to put something into place that no one else has done,” Braun explained. “The way that we all operate in school districts is that we sit around and wait for someone else to do this.”
“We wait around on the [Texas Education Agency], we wait on [Texas Association of School Boards]. We wait on all of these other groups for them to fix all of our problems.”
The move to codify the prescriptions outlined in SB 3 represents a departure from some Texas school districts and educators who have been reluctant to adopt the changes.
Some lawmakers even believe that the Texas State Board of Education is trying to skirt around the text of the law, attempting to adopt the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) “replete with [CRT].”
These curricula standards are updated every eight years, and the Texas State Board of Education will finalize the new social studies and history TEKS this fall.
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Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.