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Texas Library Association talks 'culture war,' plans to address school book bans

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Several North Texas school districts have banned certain books from library shelves due to complaints from parents and politicians. 

The books cover subjects on the LGBTQ-plus community as well as race and gender identity issues. 

On Tuesday, the Texas Library Association walked through its next plans as it tries to refute some of the attacks they are seeing. 

"Politicians and proponents of banning books have started a culture war in our state," said Shirley Robinson, Executive Director for the Texas Library Association. "What we're seeing is that school boards and administrators are being put under pressure because of the rhetoric that is occurring with really small minority of folks that are not understanding the issue fully."

Robinson said many librarians have been threatened if they don't pull the books from the shelves, "They are being verbally threatened through emails, some of them are losing their jobs or they are afraid of losing their jobs and so a lot of times that results in them going against their own policies or even self-censoring even in the selection process of choosing which books are going to be on the shelves to represent their students."

Throughout North Texas many school districts such as Keller ISD and Granbury ISD have had tense meetings, which led to the district to look over its book selection. 

After complaints, Granbury ISD had 131 books under review, 116 were sent back on the shelves. 

Keller ISD had 38 books flagged, about half returned back to the libraries. 

Fort Worth State Representative Matt Krause created a list of more than 800 books that he says 'might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychologic distress because of their race or sex.'

"That covers something that may make people feel uncomfortable or have uncomfortable conversations but that's really important for our kids and our parents and our educators to be able to talk about real issues and the reality of where we are at as a society," added Robinson. 

The associations' next strategy under the 'Texans for the Right to Read' will organize a steering committee made up of community members who want to speak up go to the board meetings and give their opinions. 

"Going to help us better educate the public on what needs to be done with this issue," said Robinson.

The TLA released a statement on the recent TEA guidelines regarding school library content:

On April 11, the Texas Education Agency issued a model local board policy in response to Governor Greg Abbott's direction that TEA address statewide standards to prevent the presence of obscene content in Texas public school libraries. The Texas Library Association and the Texas Association of School Librarians, appreciate TEA's work to recommend procedures to ensure transparency, facilitate parental engagement, and clarify that library materials are different from instructional materials used in classroom teaching. But we must emphasize the following:

School libraries are for all students but not all students are the same – they have diverse interests, abilities, and maturity levels, and varied cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The school library collection, developed by highly trained and educated certified school librarians with input from students, teachers, parents, and administrators, must be relevant to the students and campus it serves. There is no one-size fits all solution.

No book is right for every child; but one book can make a difference in the life of one child.

Furthermore, school libraries do not collect obscene content.

The policies as outlined raise significant concerns about the tremendous administrative burden this will place on school librarians, superintendents, and school board members as they are asked to read and review thousands of books and other library-related materials. 

Shifting educators' focus away from teaching, resulting in loss of valuable instructional time, does a disservice to the students of Texas at a time when many are struggling to catch up after two years of challenges due to the pandemic.

As professional educators, school librarians are partners with parents in their school community. TLA and TASL strongly support parents' rights to determine what their children read; however, one parent or a small group of parents cannot decide what is appropriate for all students. 

TLA and TASL look forward to working with superintendents and school board members as current collection development and reconsideration policies are evaluated to ensure process transparency and effectiveness. 

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