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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Calls on State School Boards Association to “Ensure No Child is Exposed to Pornography or Other Inappropriate Content in a Texas Public School” , in the GOP’s latest attempt to dictate what can and cannot be taught in classrooms. .
In a letter Monday to the executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards, Abbott said parents have the right to protect their children from obscene content in schools and asked the organization to determine to what extent such material exists. – and delete it. .
“A growing number of parents of Texas students are increasingly alarmed by certain books and other content found in public school libraries that are grossly inappropriate in the public education system,” he wrote. “The most egregious examples include clearly pornographic images and substances that have no place in the Texas public education system.”
The letter does not provide any specific example of such content.
Texas school libraries are governed by their independent districts as well as by standards established and approved by the state, as Abbott noted in the letter. While textbooks are reviewed and adopted by the state board of education, library books are reviewed at the district level.
“Collectively, members of your organization have an obligation to determine the extent to which such materials exist or are used in our schools and to remove any such content,” Abbott wrote. “You must also ensure transparency about the material taught in class and offered in school libraries. “
The school boards association has not publicly responded to the letter.
But a spokesperson told NPR by email that the group was “puzzled” as to why it received it, given that it “has no regulatory authority over school districts and does not set standards for educational materials, including library books “.
“The role of a school board primarily includes establishing a strategic plan for the district, adopting policies at public meetings, approving the district budget, and selecting and evaluating a superintendent. “, added the spokesperson. “In most school districts, the review and selection of individual library materials has traditionally been an administrative responsibility managed by professional district staff.”
The letter comes as several lawmakers in the Republican state have called for inquiries into school library books they believe are inappropriate.
Other state officials want to investigate school district library books
Texas Representative Matt Krause, who chairs the House Committee on General Investigations – and is also a candidate for attorney general – wrote a letter to the Assistant Commissioner of Curriculum and principals at the Texas Education Agency , announcing an inquiry into the districts’ supply of books.
Krause has attached a 16-page list of around 850 book titles, most of which appear to be related to gender identity, sexuality, race, and sexual health. They were published between the 1960s and this year, and several have won awards. An analysis of The morning news from Dallas found that “of the top 100 titles listed, 97 were written by women, people of color or LGBTQ authors.”
He asked the district leaders to tell him how many copies of these books they had and on which campuses, and how much the district had devoted to them.
Krause also asked principals to identify and provide the same information for other books they may have that deal with the following topics:
“Human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), sexually explicit images, graphic representations of sexual behavior contrary to the law or containing material likely to annoy students, guilt, anxiety or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or gender or to transmit that a student, because of their race or gender, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. “
And at the end of last week, State Representative Jeff Cason called the Texas Attorney General to investigate “sexually explicit material in public schools.”
He chose a particular book, Queer gender: a thesis by Maia Kobabe, a non-binary, queer author and illustrator. (The book has been contested or denounced in several states, an experience Kobabe described in a recent Washington post op-ed.) One district has since removed it from a high school library.
Cason urged the attorney general to launch a statewide investigation into this book and others that could “violate the Penal Code on pornography, child pornography and decency laws, as well as the ramifications legal for school districts that have approved these types of books. “
The crop war is not limited to Texas
Of course, there is a much bigger battle brewing in Texas and beyond over how schools can deal with sensitive but important topics.
Texas lawmakers this year passed two laws restricting the way teachers can talk about race in school.
More generally, the highly politicized debate over critical race theory is now unfolding in many states, including Virginia, where the Beloved recently came to embody the education issues at stake in Monday’s gubernatorial election.
This story originally appeared in the Morning edition live blog.