A nationwide debate over sexually explicit books in school libraries and classrooms heated up Tuesday night in one North Texas school district.

The controversial books weren’t on the agenda, but dozens of parents, students, and community members showed up at the McKinney Independent School District’s monthly board meeting to make their voices heard.

“A lot of people are very shocked when they find out that there’s pornography in the schools,” said McKinney resident Jill Krout. “We need a couple of school board members with spines to get this on the agenda.”

Close to 30 people spoke during public comments, both for and against removing library books containing graphic descriptions and images of minors engaged in sex acts.

Last week, Paul and Rachel Elliott, whose daughter is an elementary-school student in McKinney ISD, challenged 282 books in their school libraries that they say are too sexually explicit for underage children.

“The policies in place now appear to be broken,” Paul told school board members Tuesday, asking them to modify district policies to compel the removal of books that meet the statutory definition of obscenity. “Leaving it to [administrators’] discretion clearly isn’t working.”

“There is a time and place for these topics,” Rachel said. “In the school library without parental supervision isn’t the place.”

She said parents who want their kids to read these books are welcome to buy them, but taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on obscene material.

Other parents and students said the explicit books should stay in schools.

“I refuse to be held hostage by book banners,” said one of several speakers who accused a “vocal minority” of trying to force their intolerant views on others.

“I’m in opposition to removing any books from our school library,” said one mom, adding other parents in the district have “no right to prevent my children from reading any of those books.”

Some argued that “LGBTQ” students need books that “make them feel represented” and the school library is a “safe space” to read them.

“We deserve a chance to read books that interest us,” said a 17-year-old student, after quoting a “Freedom to Read” statement issued by the American Library Association in 1953. “I’m almost adult and therefore deserve the right to choose what I read.”

The board limited comments on the non-agenda item to one minute each. That led to a brief commotion when a man shouted that the 17-year-old had gone over her allotted time.

At the behest of the board, he was tossed out by two McKinney police officers stationed within the meeting room. (Five McKinney Police Department vehicles were parked outside the building throughout the meeting.)

What’s happening in McKinney is part of a larger debate about the role of parents in deciding what kids read in school.

Krout said it’s time the board does put the book issue on the agenda so it can be debated fully and openly.

“Let’s have a full discussion amongst the school board members, and then read aloud from some of these books and see if you’re going to not be nauseated,” she said.

It takes two board members to place an item on the agenda. Only trustee Chad Green has been willing to tackle the book debate in a board meeting.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held March 22.

Information about the McKinney ISD board, including how to contact board members, is posted on the district’s website.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.