After examining their shelves for explicit books, Fort Worth Independent School District has reopened campus libraries more than two weeks into the 2023-2024 school year.
The district ordered the libraries to close earlier this month to prepare for September 1, when a new law goes into effect requiring school districts to ensure that library materials are age-appropriate.
Following months of parental outrage over sexually explicit materials in student libraries, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 900 by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco). HB 900 prohibits school libraries from housing materials that are sexually explicit, vulgar, or educationally unsuitable. It also sets up state standards for keeping inappropriate sexual content out of all school libraries and classrooms.
HB 900 requires vendors to rate and label books based on sexual content. Vendors that fail to comply cannot sell books to Texas schools.
When legislators passed the measure out of the Texas House earlier this year, State Rep. Shawn Thierry (D–Houston) crossed party lines and gave an impassioned defense of the bill, inviting people to visit her office and sign pages of the “filthy books” they thought were appropriate for children to read in school.
“Many people who initially opposed the bill, did so because they did not believe this content is in public schools,” said Thierry. “This actually underscores how incredulous and perverse the content really is.”
Jessica Becerra, the FWISD Communications Coordinator, told Texas Scorecard the librarians returned before the start of the school year and “received training… so we can be in compliance with the Texas House bill.”
FWISD has since reopened the libraries, but the district removed 118 books for further review to ensure they are “developmentally appropriate.”
The list includes several books the district had already pulled from library shelves after parents raised concerns that they were too sexually explicit.
FWISD’s interim director of library services, Dr. Ross Teller, said his goal is to “get these books through this process as quickly as possible.”
The titles include “Flamer” by Mike Curato, “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison. Parents have raised concerns that the content in all three of these books is sexually explicit and inappropriate for students.
A Fort Worth resident, Mike Cee, was removed from a FWISD school board meeting earlier this month while attempting to read aloud a review of “Flamer.”
As Cee began to read, he had barely made it through the first sentence before school board president Dr. Camille Rodriguez called for security to remove him from the room. Ultimately, Cee was ejected from the building by law enforcement.
In a statement released to the public, FWISD said a committee of master-certified librarians will review the removed books and ensure that they meet current FWISD Collection Development requirements.