Cy-Fair Edition | March 2023

passage of House Bill 3979—the “crit- ical race theory” bill—in 2021, he said, which limited the way educators can teach about race and current events. Several bills about school libraries have been filed this session, includ- ing House Bill 338, filed by Oliverson, which would require book publishers to post content ratings on all books sold to public schools. “It shouldn’t be a surprise when your 8-year-old checks [a book] out from the library and there’s illustra- tions of explicit sexual acts or stories of rape or violence or masturbation or other things—none of that should come as a shock to a child, a parent, a teacher, a librarian, an administrator,” Oliverson said. CFISD officials said categorizing books into collection levels was a challenge because many books in their system did not already include this information. A survey conducted in January found 71% of Texans support this con- cept of requiring publishers to include content ratings in books sold to pub- lic schools, according to a report from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. Heller said content ratings have been successful in other media such as movies, music and video games, and they could be useful resources for parents, librarians and teachers. “I think these rating systems are part of finding a middle ground where we’re not just arbitrarily banning any- thing that offends our personal sensi- bilities,” Heller said. “But at the same time, it gives teachers … an impartial third party backing them up—‘Hey, I know you might not love the themes in this book, but it’s rated for 14-year- olds, and the kids are 15.’”


of Texans believe publishers selling books to public schools should include content ratings. 71%

Reconsideration committees may include a campus/district administrator, librarian, instructional staff member, Campus Performance Objective Committee parent and other individuals. Their process is as follows: 1 Committee members read the challenged material in its entirety. 3

Educational suitability and appropriateness for the collection level are considered. 4 The committee has 30 days to determine if the material meets requirements or should be removed from libraries. 5 A written determination must be provided within 10 days following the committee’s decision.

2 If the material does not prevalently contain obscenity or profanity, it must meet at least one of 15 qualifications, such as: Mirroring selections found in neighboring libraries Representing diverse viewpoints and cultures Including accurate content from authoritative sources Stimulating growth in knowledge or enjoyment of reading

bills about public school libraries have been filed in the 88th Texas Legislature. 9 BILLS

Supporting curriculum while considering students’ needs



“These book reviews can be pushed up the chain until they get to the board level to make the final deter- mination, so we could have Trustee Scanlon voting on the books [his wife] disapproves of. How is that not a con- flict of interest?” Lam said. Bethany Scanlon declined an inter- view for this story. Margaret Hale, the curriculum and instruction department chair for the University of Houston’s College of Education, said book challenges have trended upward over time. Parents in today’s political climate feel empow- ered to make judgment calls about books, she said. “I think that people are possibly engaging in this practice in an effort to

shelter their own children from issues they feel are going to sway their chil- dren’s thinking, but they’re not taking into consideration that there may be other children who need to see these kinds of books,” Hale said. Hale said while some parents may not want their children exposed to LGBTQ stories, for example, there are students in the LGBTQ community who benefit from seeing themselves represented in literature. Non-LGBTQ students can also benefit from learning about people who are not like them, she said. A report from PEN America, a national nonprofit that promotes free expression through the advance- ment of literature, found Texas public

school libraries banned more books than any other state in 2021-22, and most books challenged across the U.S. that year featured either LGBTQ themes and characters or themes of race with characters of color. Legislation filed Oliverson said he believes the book access issue has gained new traction recently because the COVID-19 pan- demic gave parents a closer look at what was being taught in schools. “It was not just simple reading, writing and arithmetic, and so I think that prompted a broader conversation about what is really going on in the classroom,” Oliverson said. Library legislation followed the

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