By Dr. Chloe Latham Sikes
The Texas censorship bills have been hot in the news even though the latest one does not technically go into effect until December 2. With still no state guidance on how school districts and teachers should implement HB 3979 or the latest SB 3, state lawmakers continue to try to censor classrooms through mandated book inquiries and calls for criminal investigations into so-called pornographic material in schools. Some school districts have instituted book bans on specific titles in this fervor to censor material that references race, gender or sexuality even in the slightest terms.
Book Bans and Inquiries
Several Texas school districts have made news for instituting bans on specific titles on their campuses. Southlake’s Carroll ISD may be most notable after administrators mandated teacher training
on how to assess books for allegedly inappropriate content through a specific rubric issued by the district.
IDRA’s analysis of 150 sample titles from the list found that over 75% feature some topic of gender identity, expression, or sex and sexuality. Twenty-three percent relate to race as well, either exclusively or intersectionally with gender and sexuality. And some titles deal largely with other themes, such as mental illness and relationships.
The books listed vary from renowned social research books like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, to award-winning young adult books like When Aiden Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff (2020 Stonewall Book Award), to historical accounts such as Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s And Still I Rise and The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears by Susan Hamen.
The list also includes some titles published in both English and Spanish, such as And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and its translated text, Tres Con Tango. The only thing the list does not discriminate by is genre as it includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, historical and scientific texts alike.
Calls to Investigate “Pornography” in Schools
Just last week, the Texas Governor issued two letters
to state agencies to develop standards against and criminally investigate “pornography” in schools. One letter
cites two books with LGBTQ-related content,
both memoirs, as purported evidence of pornography.
The letters demonstrate the urgency that state leaders feel to further censor classrooms by removing books that are highly relevant for LGBTQ students, Black students, Latino students and Indigenous students, and arguably for all students given the importance of race, gender and sexuality.
IDRA continues to monitor this legislation and any related state guidance or action and to advocate for teaching the truth in schools.