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Over 400 books from multiple libraries in a San Antonio school district were pre-emptively pulled off the shelves, after one local politician raised questions about the appropriateness of certain titles.
Educators hastened to identify and dispose of books that might violate the recent state law that prohibits the teaching of race, gender, sexuality or anything that might fall under the new critical race theory law.
State Rep. Matt Krause submitted a list of 850 books that are under review that might violate the new law. North East Independent School District, one of the largest school districts in Texas, proactively took from its library 414 books that appeared on the list.
Ironically Krause, who chairs the House General Investigating Committee, did not ask the school to pull the books. He asked the school officials to take inventory of certain books, looking at factors such as how many copies were on hand and how much did they cost the district.
Still, the school district has decided that it will conduct an independent review of the titles to “ensure they did not have any obscene or vulgar material in them.”
NEISD executive director of communications Aubrey Chancellor wrote in a statement, “Most of those are appropriate and will stay on our library shelves as is, however, some may contain content that needs further review to ensure the books are accessible based on age appropriateness.”
The statement continued, “For us, this is not about politics or censorship. Rather about ensuring that parents choose what is appropriate for their minor children.”
It is about politics for some.
On Thursday, Dec. 2, the state of Texas passed a law that would stop “critical race theory” from being taught in public schools.
The new law states that a “teacher may not be compelled to discuss a widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” The term “controversial issue” is not clearly defined and left open for interpretation, leaving the rule wide open for educators to slip in academic error.
Dr. Chloe Latham-Sikes, deputy director of policy for the Intercultural Development Research Association, commented on the new law, reports Chron.com. “What’s happening is a broader interpretation and confusion about how we talk about race and really important conversations are being silenced,” she said.
“In practice, because they [the laws] are so vague, they are interpreted as applying to any conversation about race, racism, social justice, sex, sexism, and discrimination,” Sikes further offered. “That’s where that chilling effect and silencing is happening and it’s really concerning.”
Not everyone has embraced the law or agrees with the removal of texts regarding race, gender and sexuality out of schools. An online petition on Change.org has been created to stop the ban of these books.
Teacher Joel Mayer tweeted, “As a 26-yr @NEISD teacher, I am appalled the district is cooperating in this attempt to promote white supremacist dogma & ban the study of LGBTQ issues. As in ’09 when they banned showing Pres Obama’s speech to students, the Board is acting as a.. tool of the Republican Party.”
As a 26-yr @NEISD teacher, I am appalled the district is cooperating in this attempt to promote white supremacist dogma & ban the study of LGBTQ issues. As in '09 when they banned showing Pres Obama's speech to students, the Board is acting as a.. tool of the Republican Party.
— Joel Mayer
(@LostMapleTX) December 7, 2021
Among the books that were pulled are titles like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.” This critically acclaimed book, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, is a conversation with his son about being Black in America and some of the lessons he will have to learn.
The 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron is also on the list— highlighted by the congressman because it references the historical slave revolt led by Turner in Virginia in 1831.
While books that deal with race are listed in Krause’s 800, there seem to be other hang-ups for the Republican congressman.
Chancellor, who speaks for the school district, wants the world to know that NEISD is not relinquishing its power without a fair assessment. She further noted that librarians will be “responsible for reviewing the books that they have in their particular libraries.”
She added, “When I look at some of those titles on there, they in no way are going to be inappropriate. They’re going to be absolutely reviewed and back on the shelves. So, you know, maybe all of them may end up going back on our shelves. But we just want to do our due diligence. We are simply looking for vulgar or obscene text and knowing that our books are at the appropriate levels, and the appropriate ages are able to check those out.”
She committed that between Thursday, Dec. 2 and Monday, Dec. 6, more than 100 of the books pulled had already “been reviewed and approved” and considered appropriate for the age group of the school in which they were originally stocked.
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