TEA Releases New Guidelines, Encourages Schools to Give Parents More Control
Updated: Apr 24, 2022
DENTON - In the midst of election season, politicians nationwide are doing their best to get as many people on their side as they possibly can. As Texas Governor Greg Abbott seeks to win his third term in office, parental rights in education and a “parental bill of rights” amendment to the Texas Constitution have become staple platforms for his reelection campaign.
In November of 2021, Abbott ordered the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and the State Board of Education to work together and create new guidelines for public school districts in Texas regarding the library book selection process.
On April 11, the TEA released those guidelines.
The new standards encourage school districts to give more power to parents when it comes to adding or removing books from the library inventory; suggest the creation of “review boards” that would inspect any book that any parent feels is inappropriate; and propose that the individual school boards have the final say in whether a library book stays or goes.
Supporters of the new policy believe that it will help to keep inappropriate and obscene material off the shelves of public school libraries statewide.
Opponents say it’s not that simple.
“I'm very wary of giving people power to select or deselect curriculum based on choices that they have that are based on politics rather than learning,” said Justin Trudeau, a parent of four children in the Texas school system. “I think that's a slippery slope that we need to be very careful of.”
Statistics from the American Library Association show that since 2019, the number of library book challenges has been steadily increasing, with a high of 729 challenges in a single year.
Last fall, one person topped that number – in a single letter.
While running for state attorney general, Congressman Matt Krause (R-93rd) sent a list of 850 books to school districts across the state, inquiring into the number of copies present in each classroom and library. The majority of the books on the list discussed gender, sexuality or race, and were written by women, people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“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 Texas Library Association (TLA) said in its official statement of response. “No book is right for every child; but one book can make a difference in the life of one child.”
School districts are not required to implement the new standards, but the TEA highly encourages the reshaping of policy around the new guidelines.
“Unfortunately, librarians did not have a seat at the table when this model policy was developed,” Shirley Robinson, the executive director for the TLA, said. “Right now, we’re working with other organizations to make sure librarians are able to provide input as to how something like this would affect their day-to-day ability to serve as educators, and our biggest hope is that their professionalism and input will be respected.”
A spokesperson for Lewisville ISD told me that at this time, they will not be implementing the new policy.
Denton ISD declined to comment.