The Granbury Independent School District (GISD) in Texas has pulled 130 books from school libraries for review by a committee for inappropriate content as part of the biggest book-removal push in decades.
“We haven’t seen or heard of challenges like these probably in the last 40 years,” said Shirley Robinson, the Executive Director of the Texas Library Association. “It’s definitely become politicized.”
The move to ban these books came after the Republican uproar of teaching “critical race theory” in the last year. Critical race theory is a coalition of different ideas that express that most, if not all aspects of society, are intertwined with racism and that race is one of the most important factors in creating and maintaining inequality in America.
Republican Greg Abbott of Texas is seeking reelection this year and has backed the effort to remove books from school libraries after State Representative Matt Krause sent a list of 850 books to the Texas Education Agency asking to be banned. Gov. Abott has written multiple letters to state education leaders and groups, asking them to “protect” students from content he called “pornographic.”
Gov. Abbott has also been speaking out against what he deems “cancel culture” and “dangerous” censorship online. In September 2021, he signed a new social media bill into law that makes it illegal for social media platforms to ban accounts “for their political viewpoints.”
“Freedom of speech is under attack in Texas,” Abbott stated. “There is a dangerous movement by some social media companies to silence conservative ideas and values.”
The issue of banning books and parental involvement has become a hot topic for Republican election campaigns. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia successfully won his election after securing the parental vote by campaigning on this topic. One of his television ads featured an upset parent after her high school son was assigned to read “Beloved” by Toni Morrison.
Five books that were under review in the GISD, all written by author Abbi Glines, have already been removed from library shelves because they contain “sexually explicit content.” Other books under review include titles like “Roe v. Wade: A Women’s Choice” by Susan Gold, “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Bartoletti and “Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation” by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Outside of the GISD, books on race and sexuality have been disappearing from Texas schools in rapid amounts. In nearly 100 school districts in the Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio regions, there were 75 formal requests from community members or parents to ban books from libraries during the first four months of the 2021-2022 school year. This is a stark increase from a year earlier, when only one library book challenge was filed in those school districts. All but a few of the challenges involve books dealing with race or sexuality.
The book pull is not unique to Texas, however; school districts in at least 30 other states are currently involved in debates over what books should and should not be on the library shelves of schools.
Hundreds of authors and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the National LGBTQ Task Force signed a statement from the National Coalition Against Censorship that denounced the book bans. The statement explained that most of the books being challenged are about “the lived experiences of racism or of growing up LGBTQIA and experiencing bias, discrimination, hate and even violence.”
Students are speaking out against the ban. One second-year in the GISD said at a meeting with the school board, “This constant need to control youth and their development shows a systematic problem within the school system. So many histories such as those as LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous people and that of the true history of our country will be erased if this book ban falls through.”
A third-year at the meeting also spoke out, “I simply want to emphasize who it is that is upset about this book ban, and it’s not just delinquents who want to read smut. It’s honor students who want access to the full extent of their education.” She continued, “I’m simply going to say that no government—and public school is an extension of government—has ever banned books and banned information from its public and been remembered in history as the good guys.”