Another spirited school board meeting in North Texas ended in a win for conservatives as a pro-family majority voted to keep age-inappropriate gender ideology out of students’ libraries and classrooms, delivering on their campaign promises to protect children and respect parents.
Keller Independent School District trustees approved a policy change Monday night that adds “discussion or depiction of gender fluidity” to content guidelines for library books and instructional materials.
The guidelines were adopted earlier this year during an overhaul of the district’s book review policies. They include content such as profanity, violence, drug use, and sexually explicit conduct, which educators use as selection criteria for determining if books are appropriate for various ages.
“Thank you for doing what you said you’d do: protecting kids from sexually explicit material,” said Joel Starnes, a local parent and conservative activist, during public comments.
Starnes was among more than 80 people who showed up to speak at Monday night’s meeting. Opinions on the updated content guidelines were divided.
Dozens said they supported the board’s new book review policies.
“I want to commend the board for adding gender fluidity and transgenderism to the book selection criteria,” said Kris Kittle, a Keller mom and education advocate. “Thank you for supporting parents and parenting our own children.”
“The silent majority that got you elected, we are so proud that you are our school board … because you are doing exactly what you promised to do,” said newly elected State Rep. Nate Schatzline. “You promised to defend our kids, you promised to put education above indoctrination and get indoctrination out, and that’s what you’re doing tonight.”
“We are behind you, Keller ISD school board,” he added.
Parent Chris Coker also thanked the board for “fighting for academic excellence and protecting our children,” adding that “it’s important that we keep the focus of our education system on reading, writing, and arithmetic.”
He said a New York Times/Siena poll showed that “over 70 percent of voters strongly oppose access to sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.”
“We need to keep our education founded in reality and truth,” he said. “Our public schools are for education, not indoctrination.”
Retired teacher Blanca Hernandez told the board that schools should “concentrate on the three Rs” and other academic subjects, not gender ideology, so students can learn to excel.
Opponents of the new book selection criteria accused the board of “bullying” and trying to “erase” students who identify as “transgender” or “non-binary.” Some claimed excluding books about transgenderism or featuring non-binary characters would lead to an increase in student suicides.
“It is not [the teachers’] job, nor yours, to police what our children read,” one Keller mom told the board.
Another woman critical of the board’s policies said, “Queer kids are the future.”
Board President Charles Randklev said the new content guidelines are aimed at excluding sexually explicit materials and ensuring all materials are age-appropriate.
“We’re not talking about marginalizing any group of kids,” he said. “What we’re talking about is making sure that we don’t have age-inappropriate content in our schools. … We’re talking about an ideology.”
He noted the state of Texas has clearly rejected medical and surgical “transition” procedures promoted within transgender ideology.
Randklev was elected in May of 2021 as a conservative voice on the board.
In May, Keller voters elected three new trustees—Micah Young, Joni Shaw Smith, and Sandi Walker—during local elections that swept pro-parent, anti-establishment school board candidates into office across Texas. Their wins gave conservatives a 4-3 majority on the board.
“A lot was said tonight about Jesus and the Bible, so I’m just going to give you my thoughts,” Walker said Monday night.
Jesus did not bend to the culture, but he spoke the truth in love. The role of public schools is to educate our children in math, science, reading, writing. We should focus on educating our students, closing learning gaps, and producing lifelong learners.
“I will always fight to protect a child’s innocence,” she added. “Discussions involving gender fluidity and gender ideology do not belong in the schools, but in the home.”
The four conservatives voted to approve the policy change. Trustees Beverly Dixon and Ruthie Keyes voted against, while trustee Chris Roof abstained.
The board also held preliminary discussions about initiating a school safety program that would allow specially trained teachers and staff to have secured handguns on campus.
Again, the crowd was divided between supporters of the board’s proposal and parents who said they were “terrified” of teachers having guns inside classrooms. A few representatives of the anti-gun group Moms Demand Action also spoke against the proposal.
Texas law generally provides for two types of school safety programs involving armed employees.
The school safety training or “guardian” plan is solely designed to train select school employees how to protect students from an active shooter until law enforcement arrives.
Young said Keller ISD has already doubled the number of school resource officers (SROs), and a guardian plan would add to the district’s “layered approach” to security.
He said more than 300 Texas school districts (about 30 percent) already use the guardian plan and “have not had a single incident” to date.
Superintendent Rick Westfall said the district would survey the community and staff about implementing a guardian program.
Trustees will discuss the safety proposal at the next board meeting on December 12.