CENTRAL TEXAS – Amid stories across the state and nation of pornographic material in public schools, Central Texas officials have brought up the issue of school districts offering similar books to children. These officials have even threatened to withhold millions of dollars from those school districts. However, it’s unclear whether any of the materials will actually be removed.

The story began last week, when the Williamson County Commissioners Court (located in north Austin) voted 4-1 to distribute extra federal taxpayer coronavirus relief money to school districts throughout the county—except for Round Rock and Leander Independent School Districts, because of sexually explicit books found in school libraries and racist ideologies plaguing their curriculum.

“It’s complicated for me today because I want to help the students,” said Commissioner Valerie Covey, “but I’m not okay with giving money to school districts that teach critical race theory or that allow books in their library—especially in the classroom library—where there’s no supervision. A child can walk up and grab books that we would consider X-rated.”

Both Leander and Round Rock school district officials have been under fire this year for what they’ve stocked on the school library shelves.

“The current bulk book purchase process is broken,” a Round Rock parent recently testified to the school board. “In the last few weeks, parents across the district have discovered multiple books such as ‘Lawn Boy,’ ‘Gender Queer,’ and ‘Out of Darkness’ on the shelves of our school libraries. These books and others include X-rated pornographic pictures and illustrations and/or text descriptions of sex acts, with one book graphically describing two 10-year-old boys performing oral sex on each other and another describing in detail an adult molesting a child.”

“Our objection to sexually explicit material is not banning books,” another parent testified. “It is simply a serious concern of what our child, our children, are exposed to when we send them to our publicly funded schools, a place where trust should never be broken.”

After the commissioners’ decision last week, they said they met with officials in both districts about the issue. On Tuesday, the county commissioners unanimously approved giving the additional money to Round Rock and Leander—with stipulations.

In order for Round Rock ISD to receive $5 million of federal taxpayer money, district officials must follow their policies regarding book reviews and parental complaints. In order for Leander ISD to receive $3.7 million, district officials must first conduct a review of 11 questionable books that could be removed from campus and digital libraries. (Leander ISD already removed those 11—including “Lolita,” a 1950s-era book about a 37-year-old man’s obsession and inappropriate relations with a 12-year-old girl—from recommended lists for student book clubs after a year-long review by a committee of parents and staff.)

“I want to give this needed money to the schools who have legitimate COVID-related expense needs,” Commissioner Cynthia Long said. “My very simple ask of LISD is to give clarity to the community and finish the book review process. I’m not dictating what the outcome of that process should be.”

However, it remains to be seen if the commissioners’ “stipulations” will actually result in any curriculum change inside Round Rock or Leander schools.

The overall issue has recently surfaced in school districts all across Texas and the nation, and Texas Scorecard has documented the ongoing fight.

Concerned parents may contact their school officials.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.