An independent school district in Texas is asking school officials on all campuses to remove any book that was challenged over its content last year. But that doesn't mean they're gone forever.
The Dallas Morning News reports the books challenged by Keller ISD parents and community members include Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Anne Frank's Diary (The Graphic Adaptation), and the Bible.
Several of the other 41 books also include stories of LGBTQ characters like Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, which depicts a journey of gender identity and sexual orientation. As CBN News reported in May, the book has been challenged by numerous parents in several school districts across the country. The American Library Association listed the novel as the number one most challenged book of 2021.
The district maintains a web page containing a list of all of the challenged books.
Keller district spokesman Bryce Nieman told The Morning News that Keller school trustees recently approved a new policy that requires every book that was previously challenged to be reconsidered. So that process is now underway.
The district reportedly sent an email to all of its principals and librarians regarding the book removal.
"Books that meet the new guidelines will be returned to the libraries as soon as it is confirmed they comply with the new policy," associate superintendent John Allison wrote. "We hope to be able to expedite the process and return eligible books into circulation as soon as possible."
The Texas Tribune reported the Texas Education Agency investigated the Keller school district last year because it was notified that it had sexually explicit books available to children. The district received several complaints about inappropriate books.
School Board President Says Bible, Anne Frank Have Not Been Banned
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Keller ISD School Board President Charles Randklev told parents and concerned citizens that the Bible and Anne Frank have not been banned by the district.
"The recent reporting by the media that Keller ISD is banning the Bible and Anne Frank is false," he wrote. "The district will be reviewing those books per updated policy using content guidelines pending board approval."
Randklev also chastised the local media for leaving out several titles.
"Also omitted were other titles (see list), which included Gender Queer and All Boys Aren't Blue, among others. These books are replete with graphic, gratuitous, sexually-explicit content (see link to video for examples) and have no place in the hands of children," he noted.
The school board president reminded the public the new policy to review all instructional materials in question was passed unanimously by the school board.
"The approved policy (7-0 vote) was discussed during several board meetings. These meetings are recorded and available to the public," Randklev continued. "Per the new policy, instructional materials previously challenged following the old policy, which was flawed and exposed children to pornographic material, will be re-evaluated."
He also said several of the district's employees had been doxed, threatened, and harassed because of the school board's decision.
"This behavior is wrong, shameful, and unacceptable. We can agree to disagree on issues and still be amicable," Randklev wrote.
The school board president also asked five questions regarding exposing children to sexually-explicit content in school.
"How does sexually-explicit content meet specific student reading needs? How does it strengthen information literacy or critical thinking skills? How does it create empathy towards other groups of individuals? How does it contribute positively to the school culture? How does it align with state and district learning standards?" he asked.
"Also, what does that say about our education system…that certain student groups can only be reached through the lens of graphic sexual content. This is unconscionable," Randklev wrote.
Book Battles in Other Regions
Keller is not the only North Texas district trying to deal with inappropriate books in classrooms and libraries.
KDFW-TV reports Frisco State Representative Jared Patterson officially challenged 23 books in Frisco ISD's library database.
Patterson said the books were pulled from neighboring districts or book vendors due to explicit content.
Activists have warned about Texas districts allegedly pulling books from circulation after receiving only one objection.
Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression at the nonprofit advocacy organization PEN America, said such actions "on the eve of a new school year is an appalling affront to students' First Amendment rights."
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