Fort Worth lawmaker targets 849 books in school libraries. Their topics? Sex, race, LGBTQ

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A Fort Worth lawmaker’s request for information about books in Texas school libraries is getting pushback from teachers’ groups, including one that called the request a politically-motivated “witch hunt.”

State Rep. Matt Krause, R- Fort Worth, in his authority as chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, on Monday submitted a letter to a Texas Education Agency official and several school districts containing inquiry related to a list of 849 books. The books’ topics include race and racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, sex and sexuality, abortion and LGBTQ rights.

The letter seeks information about the number of listed books at school campuses, the amount spent to get the them and information on other books in school libraries related to subjects like sexually transmitted diseases and “material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.”

“Recently, a number of Texas school districts around the state including Carroll ISD, Spring Branch ISD, Lake Travis ISD, Leander ISD, and Katy ISD, have removed books from libraries and/or classrooms after receiving objections from students, parents, and taxpayers,” according to the letter obtained by the Star-Telegram from the Texas State Teachers Association and the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

It continues that “in accordance with the Committee’s jurisdiction and my authority as Chairman, I am initiating an inquiry into Texas school district content.”

Krause, who is running for Texas Attorney General, declined to comment on the inquiry and its intent when reached by text, citing “pending or potential investigation.” It is unclear how many districts are subject to the information request.

The letter shares a link to an October NBC News article about the Carroll school district in Southlake using a rubric to decide which books should be removed from classrooms. A district spokesperson at the time denied the district was explicitly telling teachers to remove the books, according to the article. Later, NBC then reported that an administrator suggested that if classrooms had books about the Holocaust then they needed books with opposing views.

Responding to the letter, Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina called the request a “disturbing and political overreach into the classroom.” In a statement, she said state law, including bills related to the teaching of critical race theory passed by lawmakers earlier this year, does not give “a legislator the authority to conduct this type of witch hunt.”

“This is an obvious attack on diversity and an attempt to score political points at the expense of our children’s education,” Molina said. “What will Rep. Krause propose next? Burning books he and a handful of parents find objectionable?”

Shannon Holmes, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said the “inquiry is driven by culture wars, not common sense.”

“This is yet another attempt by a legislator eyeing higher office to shore up street cred with the political base by dividing parents and educators in the public education community,” Holmes said. “Moreover, it’s a waste of taxpayer resources for school districts, which are already grappling with big issues, including staffing shortages and student learning losses, due to pandemic-related challenges and new laws enacted by the Legislature this year.”

Victoria Neave, a Dallas Democrat and vice chair of the General Investigating Committee, could not immediately be reached for comment. However, she told The Texas Tribune she wasn’t aware Krause was launching an investigation until notified by a school in her district.

“His letter is reflective of the Republican Party’s attempt to dilute the voice of people of color,” she told the Tribune.

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