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GOP-fueled fight over kid-appropriate library books heats up in Texas

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio

The latest chapter of Texas Republicans dictating what can be taught in K-12 classrooms is all about books that aim to teach sensitive but important topics, especially those related to race and LGBTQ issues.

Texas isn’t alone in its book hunt. Other states have also gotten tangled up in education-focused culture wars over how to teach students truthful U.S. history and about complex subjects like racism and human sexuality.

On October 25, GOP State Rep. Matt Krause issued a letter to the Texas Education Agency about concerns related to certain books in school libraries. Many of the books Krause -- who is running for state attorney general -- wants gone from Texas schools include topics of race and human sexuality, and LGBTQ issues are a central theme of the majority of those targeted.

According to Krause’s inquiry, first reported by The Texas Tribune, his specific gripe is with 850 titles that “contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

Other GOP state lawmakers have also demanded investigations into school library books they deem inappropriate.

On Nov. 8, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tasked education officials and the state’s school board association with identifying and removing “pornography or other inappropriate content” from public schools and coming up with statewide standards to prevent “obscene content” in libraries and classrooms.

Two days later, Abbott called for the Texas Education Agency to conduct a criminal investigation into the “availability of pornography” in public schools "for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law,” despite the fact that TEA does not have a law enforcement arm.

What do GOP leaders and lawmakers hope to achieve with these investigations? What are their criteria for removal? What reasons do they cite for turning up the heat on books now?

Are library books an issue a majority of Texas voters are concerned about, or is this just political posturing ahead of the 2022 election cycle?

What has the response been from district leaders, teachers and librarians across Texas? Have any of the suggested titles been removed? Who gets to decide what is taught in Texas K-12 classrooms?

Will this set a precedent to remove all literature that teaches sensitive but important subjects? What are appropriate standards? Where does it end?

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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday November 17.