The North Texas school district with almost 8,000 students pulled some books and reviewed over 100 others in January 2022 based on the explicitness of their content.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas filed a letter of complaint against the district in July asserting that it is engaged in anti-LGBTQ discrimination and has created a hostile atmosphere for students who claim to be transgender or non-binary.
The letter asserted that “Superintendent [Jeremy] Glenn explicitly directed district librarians to pull books regarding ‘the transgender, LGBTQ’ from Granbury ISD shelves.”
Title IX requires school districts who receive federal funds to “operate [their] education program or activity in a nondiscriminatory manner free of discrimination based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity.”
At a school board meeting in January 2022, Glenn defended the removal of certain books.
“We’re not taking Shakespeare or Hemingway off the shelves, and we’re not going and grabbing every socially, culturally, or religiously diverse book and pulling them. That’s absurd, and the people saying that are gaslighters, and it’s designed to incite division,” he said.
“[Governor Greg] Abbott said that students should not have access to vulgar or pornographic materials in schools, and our district totally agrees with that. Those are exactly the type of books we removed. The books I removed were vulgar. The writing was sexually explicit and, in my opinion, pornographic…”
According to the district, 116 of the 131 suspected books were returned to shelves after a review process that critics claimed was not thorough enough.
“By choosing to open this investigation in response to our complaint, the federal government is signaling that remedying discrimination against LGBTQIA+ students is a top priority and that school districts cannot deny students the right to be themselves in school, be it through book bans, discriminatory comments, or other harmful policies,” Chloe Kempf, ACLU of Texas attorney, said in a press statement.
The investigative process may include reviewing relevant documents, conducting interviews, and visiting sites. At the completion of the process, the OCR will issue a letter of findings about whether the evidence shows the district’s compliance or noncompliance with the relevant laws.
If the OCR finds noncompliance, it will attempt to reach a voluntary resolution. If no voluntary resolution is reached, “OCR may initiate proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue Federal financial assistance to the recipient, or may refer the case to the Department of Justice.”
The ACLU of Texas also filed a complaint letter against Keller ISD in November because it voted to implement a policy banning library books that discuss “gender fluidity.”
The policy defines gender fluidity as “any theory or ideology that: (1) espouses the view that gender is merely a social construct; (2) espouses the view that it is possible for a person to be any gender or none based solely on that person’s feelings or preferences; or (3) supports hormone therapy or other medical treatments or procedures to temporarily or permanently alter a person’s body or genetic make-up so that it ‘matches’ a self-believed gender that is different from the person’s biological sex.”
At its November 14 meeting, Keller ISD Board President Dr. Charles Randklev responded to critics of the policy by stating, “This policy is not marginalizing any group.” He added that the policy was aimed at gender ideology contained in books, not at any specific students.
Parents and other citizens around the state have been raising alarm about the content of books they have discovered in school libraries.
In November 2021, Abbott directed 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.”
Many school districts adopted new library acquisition policies pursuant to this direction before the 2022-23 school year began.
State legislators have also involved themselves in the library book controversy. Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) challenged 23 books found in the Frisco ISD library collection, and retired Rep. Matt Krause (R-Ft. Worth) asked the Texas Education Agency to compile a list of “sexually explicit or racially preferential books.”
Patterson filed HB 976 to punish those who expose children to obscene materials. In amending the Texas Penal Code, it would remove “scientific and educational” purposes as an affirmative defense to prosecution.
Granbury ISD did not reply to a request for comment before the time of publication.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.