Book challenge debate, books in libraries come to Westlake


The discussion of books available in school libraries took center stage at the Eanes school board meeting on Tuesday, with people for and against removing certain titles from shelves addressing the board.

The board took no action regarding library books during the meeting, as no such item was on the agenda, although the board voted unanimously to appoint the assistant superintendent Jeff Arnett the next superintendent.. Arnett had been appointed the only finalist for the job last month.

During the public comment, most people spoke out in favor of keeping books in libraries, including several middle and high school students, citing the need for diverse literature that teaches readers about the world and life. ‘human experience. Parents who spoke out in favor of removing certain books from the library cited what they considered inappropriate political and sexual material that the district should not make available to students.

Continued:Jeff Arnett named sole finalist in search for Westlake Superintendent

The discussion took place about a week after a list of over 300 books was circulated to the Westlake community with details of titles available at Eanes Libraries. The majority of the books on the list are labeled as including LBGTQ content or characters, and many are also labeled as containing race or racism themes. Books are also categorized as containing swearing, violence, rape, or other explicit content.

The list was posted on social media by Eanes Kids First, a parents’ group that has been active for about a year and a half and has been advocating against the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, among others. . According to the group’s Instagram post, the list of books was compiled by the Travis County chapter of Mom’s for Liberty, a national conservative nonprofit that advocates for parental rights.

Challenges to books in public school classrooms and libraries have recently increased in Texas and across the country, with high-profile cases in the Leander School District and McKinney School District north of Dallas. Staff at the American Library Association’s Office For Intellectual Freedom said last fall they were seeing an “unprecedented” number of challenges across the country, often targeting books by and about LGBTQ people and people of color. .

Continued:Need a book recommendation? That’s what Westlake readers checked out in 2021.

Carolyn Foote, a retired Eanes librarian of 29 years, spoke out against removing the books from the library. She told the board meeting that the goal of a school library is to provide books that encompass students’ varying interests, abilities and maturity levels, and that teach critical thinking.

“Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, a researcher, has written that books serve as mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors for our students,” Foote said. help us know that we are not alone in the world Windows are books that help us see into someone else’s life and have empathy for their experience, and perhaps live an experience that we would never have.

Parents who spoke out in favor of removing the books from the library said making certain topics accessible to students violated parents’ rights to introduce concepts to their children in their own way.

“A group of concerned parents have found and revealed a list of 333 books related to the promotion of sexual behavior, identity politics, activism and critical race theory in Eanes’ libraries,” said parent Brian Talley.

Talley made an argument that has also been made in other school districts when parents complain about content they find explicit or offensive – that the presence of books containing sexual material in libraries, including books about sexual violence, normalizes sex and sexual violence and makes children more vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Continued:Westlake School Board Discusses Vendor for Diversity Initiative Curriculum Consultation

Several of the speakers in favor of keeping books on the shelves were students, including Lesleigh Golson, who attends Hill Country Middle School and spoke about her love of reading and the importance of books in teaching empathy.

“I know that parents want to put their children in the shelter. But if a child is old enough to experience racism, sexism, homophobia, then children are old enough to learn it, because if children learn it correctly, they won’t. she said. “You can’t just ban books. This is supposed to be the land of the free, so please tell me why are we going back in time and banning the books? »

Westlake High School Junior Dylan Franzen also spoke out against removing books from the library.

“I think we would back off if we took some books off,” he said. “As a child, I know how to use the Internet. I know how to use my iPhone, I know how to use a computer, I know how to use an iPad, and I can pretty much find any information I want, apart from the hard copy of a book.

District administrators have already outlined the process for challenging library books. In a discussion in January about hiring a diversity, equity and inclusion curriculum consultant, director of learning Susan Fambrough said the process of book challenge includes filling out a form, then a committee will review the challenge and make a decision.

The Picayune has requested information from the district on the number of formal challenges it has received regarding the books this year and is awaiting a response.

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