Last month, Texas GOP delegates met and decided on eight priorities for the next legislative session.

One of those priorities is to stop the sexualization of children.

As part of this priority, the party wants to see legislation to stop children from accessing sexually explicit materials by:

Prohibiting taxpayer funding to any entities that permit or promote sexually inappropriate content to minors and legislatively banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender ideology in schools and libraries.

Fort Bend ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Midland ISD, Princeton ISD, and Denton ISD are just some of the school districts that have been exposed for having sexually explicit and inappropriate books in their school libraries.

In Fort Bend ISD, at least five sexually explicit titles were found, including one with offensive religious material that thanked God for her two abortions and a 10-page in-depth scene about engaging in sexual activities with Jesus. In July 2023, Tarrant County Citizens Defending Freedom found 76 different books to be sexually explicit and violent with 500 copies of the books available in Fort Worth ISD libraries.

During the last legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 900 by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) regulating library materials sold to or included in public school libraries. HB 900 prohibits school libraries from housing materials that are sexually explicit, vulgar, or educationally unsuitable, sets up state standards for keeping inappropriate sexual content out of all school libraries and classrooms, and has a vendor rating requirement. However, a federal court blocked Texas from enforcing the vendor rating requirement and the legislation in general has been challenged in courts across the state.

Another aim of the priority is to support:

Repealing affirmative defenses in the Texas Penal Code (43.24, 43.25) and redefining “harmful materials” to remove loopholes provided by the modified Miller Test.

Penal Code 43.24 affirmative defenses states, “It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that  the sale, distribution, or exhibition was by a person having scientific, educational, governmental, or other similar justification.”

Penal Code 43.25 affirmative defenses states, “It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that: (1) the defendant was the spouse of the child at the time of the offense; (2) the conduct was for a bona fide educational, medical, psychological, psychiatric, judicial, law enforcement, or legislative purpose; or (3) the defendant is not more than two years older than the child.”

By repealing the affirmative defense, schools will be prohibited from using the “educational purpose” defense to keep inappropriate content in their libraries.

The party also asks the legislature to:

Establish[ing] an independent Inspector General for Education to investigate fraud, waste, abuse, and criminal conduct within schools and refer findings to prosecutorial authorities.

Texas Education 911, a grassroots movement promoting parent-identified policy solutions to parent-identified problems in Texas schools, has pushed for creating an Inspector General for Education who would take reports of fraud, waste, and abuse, especially abuse by school employees who harm a child physically or sexually.

Last summer, their Champion-A-Child campaign documented 32 stories of Texas students harmed by public school administrators. One story focused on two elementary school girls who were sexually molested by their bus driver, and administrator in Prosper Independent School District has been held accountable.

The priority also intends to emphasize the reporting of sex crimes within schools by removing immunity from civil liability for school employees.

Compelling superintendents to report sex crimes within schools to outside law enforcement and removing immunity from civil liability for schools and their employees.

Most recently, Lorena ISD and one of its principals, April Jewell, have been in the news because of a lawsuit brought against them by the parents of a five-year-old victim who suffered continuous sexual abuse from her teacher. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Manske concluded in a 15-page report that Jewell’s lack of executive action to protect pre-K children from a teacher’s continuous sexual abuse “shocks the conscience.” The lawsuit that was filed last year states that Jewell ignored months of warnings from multiple school employees about inappropriate behavior by the teacher toward two of his female students, and never investigated Crenshaw’s behavior or notified the victim’s parents, law enforcement, or CPS about the reports of Crenshaw’s behavior.

Jewell and the district have argued that they are immune from civil liability under the current statute.

Holly Tkach

Holly Tkach is a summer fellow at Texas Scorecard. She is a rising senior at Baylor University majoring in Political Science and Communication.