As parents across the nation speak out against racist and pornographic material in children’s schools, the fight is also occurring in communities across Texas.
One of the latest examples is in the quaint and conservative hill country tourist town of Fredericksburg, located nearly two hours west of Austin, where parents like Tara Petsch have discovered pedophilia and explicit sexual acts and violence in books within their taxpayer-funded middle and high school libraries.
“What we have found are fictional novels depicting adult and child sex, normalizing pedophilia between teachers and students, incest, rape, graphic detailed sex scenes between minors, [and] sexual harassment language between characters who are minors and adults,” Tara recently testified to the school board of the Fredericksburg Independent School District.
Tara, a former teacher and school administrator from the Houston area, recently moved with her husband and their four kids to Fredericksburg to escape the craziness of the big city. She didn’t expect to find this.
“These are not nonfiction sex education books; these pose no direct educational use. These are books that should be in an adult section of Barnes & Noble, but unfortunately, they’re in our libraries,” she said.
Tara and a group of concerned parents started a website called MakeSchoolsSafeAgain.com, where they posted excerpts of explicit books found in FISD schools—including “Looking for Alaska,” which details an oral sex scene between minors, and “Fade,” which is about teachers using a date rape drug on students.
Both books are available to children as young as 10 years old.
“There’s a big difference in a parent challenging a book for political or religious reasons, and a parent challenging a library book that depicts adult teachers and children having sex,” Tara told the school board at the recent public meeting.
“We’ve never asked for book banning. We’ve never asked for book burning. We’ve asked for book boundaries. We want age-appropriate books in our children’s libraries. That’s all we’re asking,” Tara told Texas Scorecard, adding, “Newspapers can’t print this material, and you’d be arrested if you gave it to a child on the street. So, why is this in our children’s library?”
Tara said she sent FISD administrators the book excerpts and is working with other parents to bring awareness to the community, especially because many people “just don’t believe it’s actually happening.”
“When concerned parents brought this to the attention of principals and district administrators in FISD, we were told that we had to fill out forms and wait for a committee to read the entire book, and then it would be decided by you, the school board, if the books should be removed,” Tara told the trustees. “We were also told that removing these pornographic books could be deemed as limiting a child’s First Amendment right. And I can assure you that the law is on your side, and access to pornography is not a child’s First Amendment right. To us, this is an urgent matter and it needs the school board’s immediate attention.”
Tara explained to the board that one of their 2017 policies prohibits librarians from immediately removing obvious pornographic books.
“I feel if a parent can prove undoubtedly—by showing exact excerpts from a book—that a library book is pornographic, there needs to be a local school board policy that does not tie the hands of school district administrators,” she said. “Pornographic books detailing the inappropriate items that I mentioned above should not sit in the library on the library shelves until a review committee can get around to reading them. Not only is this a lengthy process and potentially corrupting the minds of our children in the meantime, but it creates hours of unneeded busy work for teachers, staff, and parents on the review committee.”
“We the community will do the hard work for you in bringing awareness to these books,” Tara added. “We very much want to work with FISD to always do what’s best for our minor children.”