There are situations where defensiveness is understandable, even an appropriate response to being questioned. This isn’t one of those situations.

One of the things that has been so perplexing in this national discussion about obscene books in public schools is that the initial reaction or response from librarians, teachers, and school administrators is so often defensiveness, frequently even extending to passive-aggressive finger-pointing and denials, or worse.

When confronted with something shocking, our natural first reaction reveals where our sympathies lie in the situation.

Many people initially thought—hoped—that this was something that had slipped through.

They expected the reaction from librarians, educators, school administrators, and boards to be similar to the reaction of parents when they discovered obscenity in our schools. They expected them to be appalled, even grateful to be made aware of the problem.

But educators were defensive. They acted like they had been caught in wrongdoing by someone who had no right to question them.

There are a number of schools embroiled in this in Texas. I can think of one school that responded immediately with a visceral commitment to hunt down these books, get them out of the school, and make sure it never happens again.

The rest were defensive. The rest were consistently passive-aggressive, denying there was a problem, lying about books not being in their library, and pointing fingers at booksellers, at book reviewers, at parents for protesting “wrongly.”

School officials bristled at the idea of being held to account by parents and concerned citizens. Those responses clearly revealed that their sympathies did not lie with the parents’ concerns. They broke the public trust.

What the public needs to see is a right response from the public education system. We need to see proactivity. We need to see ownership.

Teachers, librarians, administrators, and school boards should be openly leading the charge on this with a transparency that can reassure their communities that their trust is deserved.

The fact that these things are not the natural response is revealing.

Defensiveness seems to have become institutionalized. There is a strong “us” (public education) versus “them” (parents and community) component to this.

Our public educators should first relate to the children and the community being served, not the public education system or their colleagues.

Public education should be a service to the community, not an authority over families. The attitudes that have been revealed are deeply concerning. The relationship is not healthy, and it’s going to take great effort to restore.

As with many human problems, there is a necessary introspection that must take place before corrections can begin in earnest. There is still no evidence of that taking place in any meaningful measure in our public education system.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.