• Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D. • Knowledge is Power • November 18, 2021 •

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.

A few weeks later, Texas Rep. Matt Krause, chairman of the General Investigations Committee, indirectly requested that select school districts and the Texas Education Agency report on the presence and cost of almost 850 books on their campuses. Media outlets that analyzed the list reported on it largely targeting LGBTQ authors and texts, as well as books on race and racism (Richmand & Smith, 2021; Ellis, 2021; Waller, 2021).

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.

[©2021, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November 18, 2021, edition of Knowledge is Power by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]