Parents in the North Texas city of Keller spoke at their local school board meeting Monday to demand more transparency from officials about sexually explicit books found in their kids’ campus libraries.
“There’s a lot of parents out there that don’t know what’s going on,” one local father said. “These books are not meant for kids.”
Keller Independent School District parents and community members rallied right before the Monday night school board meeting, and then went inside to voice their ongoing concerns about the explicit materials. They also questioned the district’s process for reviewing books containing graphic sex and other content inappropriate for school-age children.
More than a dozen people confronted the board about the book issue during the meeting’s public comments.
Their top complaint: the school board isn’t listening to parents.
“I wasn’t even sure I should bother,” one speaker told the board.
“At the last board meeting, I told you this book issue had been festering for four months,” said John, a former board member:
The board has done virtually nothing to establish a credible remedy like other districts have done. What you’re hearing tonight is the result of this board not listening to the community it serves.
Keller parents first found what they consider pornographic material in their local school libraries last October.
Since then, the district’s process for reviewing and removing the controversial books has left parents feeling like they’re getting the runaround.
For example, people who volunteered to serve on “challenge committees” to review books were told they had to sign non-disclosure agreements, until parents pushed back and revealed NDAs were not required by any board policy.
Parents are also questioning why review committees haven’t removed any challenged books, and why school officials aren’t using their authority to remove more of the obscene books themselves.
According to the district’s list of current book challenges, 36 library books have been challenged since last October.
Ten of the books were taken off library shelves by school officials who used their discretion under a policy common to all Texas districts that allows for the removal of books that are “pervasively vulgar” or educationally unsuitable.
The other books were sent to review committees following local policies.
None of those books have been removed. Challenge committees decided all of them should remain in schools, although a few have had access restricted.
What’s happening once challenged books are sent to a review committee?
Nate Schatzline, a Texas House candidate in a district that includes part of Keller ISD, told the board the book review committee meetings should be made public, and that parents should be a majority on each review committee instead of being outnumbered by district staff.
“What we’re asking for is transparency … for true accountability, for you to put the power back in the hands of parents,” he said.
“This is not just a Keller thing; this is a movement that is going on across Texas,” a speaker from Fort Worth ISD told board members. “The majority of parents and citizens do not want pornographic material in their schools.”
Yet a few Keller parents told the board they think sexually explicit books should stay on school library shelves.
“Public education is for everyone,” said Amy, a mother who served on a book review committee. She said she had no problem with explicit books staying in schools “because a majority of parents and community members aren’t interested in pulling them from the shelves.”
Another parent who favors keeping the explicit library books reminded the board, “We vote as well.”
But most speakers said sexually explicit books simply don’t belong in schools, with one calling it “a serious fumble” that the books made it into the system in the first place.
“We are not book-banners. I’ve never called for the burning of a book,” Keller mom Kathy told the board. “All I’m asking is that books are age-appropriate, and that’s what state guidelines ask to do.”
“Exposing children to explicit material and pornography will never be acceptable,” said Vanessa.
“We are holding you accountable for failing to protect our children, and we will answer this in the upcoming elections,” she added, referring to the May 7 local elections that include three seats on the Keller ISD school board.
The next regular board meeting is April 25. Information about board meetings and members can be found on the district’s website.