Just like their Puritan brethren, credited with banning the first book in 1637 in the U.S., Republicans in Texas have jumped into the business of book banning and censorship with both feet.
A San Antonio-area school district recently proactively pulled around 400 books from its shelves in response to a letter from GOP lawmaker Rep. Matt Krause, demanding schools statewide provide information on 850 books on his list for review.
In a statement Tuesday, North East Independent School District (NEISD), one of the largest districts in the state said it was reviewing the books “out of an abundance of caution.
“For us, this is not about politics or censorship, but rather about ensuring that parents choose what is appropriate for their minor children,” NEISD spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor wrote. Adding: “NEISD asked our staff to review books from the Krause list to ensure they did not have any obscene or vulgar material in them.”
Krause wrote that the books on his list are based on what might make students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex
Oh, and by the way… most of the books were authored by women or people of color or LGBTQ writers.
Krause, a member of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus, additionally mentioned reviewing books for review if they contained material on issues HIV/AIDS, race, gender equality, sexual orientation, and human sexuality.
The list includes books such as 2020 Black Lives Matter marches (Protest! March for Change), by Joyce Markovics, narrative nonfiction that introduces young readers to the large protests during 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron and The Cider House Rules by John Irving.
Ovidia Molina, president of the Texas State Teachers Association tells NPR the review of books is “disturbing and political overreach into the classroom.”
"Nothing in state law ... gives a legislator the authority to conduct this type of witch hunt," Molina said in a statement. She added: "This is an obvious attack on diversity and an attempt to score political points at the expense of our children's education."
More than 100 books have already been deemed age-appropriate, Chancellor said, adding that the “review process is moving quickly and we anticipate the majority of books will be deemed appropriate.”
But Chancellor’s comments haven’t swayed the more than 2,000 folks who signed an online petition demanding that all of the 850 books on Krause’s list be removed from review by the North East Independent School District.
“Many Black and LGBT students in NEISD are appalled and hurt by NEISD’s decision to comply with Matt Krause and suppress our harmless resources and stories,” the petition reads.
This latest from Krause fits perfectly with Gov. Greg Abbott’s ongoing censorship and autocratic rule.
According to reporting from the Texas Tribune, in November Abbott ordered Texas education officials to develop statewide standards for blocking books with “overtly sexual” content in schools and to launch an investigation into the possible “availability of pornography” in schools. The Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education leaders have said they’ll comply.
Sadly, the move to ban books isn’t just a Texas issue, it’s happening in other states as well, and the common denominator is often the race or gender identity of the author.
Last month in Virginia Beach at-large school board member Victoria Manning, founder of the “Wokeness Checker” website, along with co-board member Laura Hughes, sent an email to Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence to demand that four books be removed from circulation or used in the classroom “due to their pornographic nature.”
“It has been brought to my attention by some parents that there are some disturbing books in our district that are available to students,” Manning wrote on Oct. 5. “I would like to ask that you pull these books from shelves and also block any electronic access by students to getting these books IMMEDIATELY.”
First on Manning’s list is author and Nobel Laureate in Literature Toni Morrison’s debut novel, The Bluest Eye, alongside Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, and the memoir comic Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe.