Texas moms on a mission to protect kids from overtly sexual material scored a big win this week as a parent-backed measure to keep sexually explicit books out of schools is set to become law.

Late Tuesday, the Texas Senate approved House Bill 900 by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco), which sets up state-level standards designed to keep inappropriate sexual content out of all Texas school libraries and classrooms.

“This bill does one thing: restricts explicit books from minors in public schools,” Patterson said when presenting HB 900 to the full House.

Patterson proposed the legislation in response to parents frustrated by months of local school officials dismissing their concerns and ignoring requests to remove sexually explicit materials.

“The vast majority of adults who have now seen the content kids have been exposed to, by books in their school libraries, agree that lines have been crossed,” Keller ISD mom Summer Crow told Texas Scorecard. “We, the parents, have provided proof to legislators.”

Crow said HB 900 will send “a clear message” to those who profit from books “of what is not acceptable content for schools to provide to minors.”

HB 900 places the burden on vendors to rate and label books based on sexual content. Vendors that fail to comply cannot sell books to Texas schools.

“The state has a compelling interest to protect children, not vendors,” said Christin Bentley, a Texas mom and education advocate, during a Senate Education Committee hearing on HB 900.

Bentley led a powerful advocacy effort for the Texas GOP’s legislative priority to Stop Sexualizing Texas Kids. As part of that effort, she launched a “Filthy Books” campaign, sending all members of the Texas Legislature daily examples of explicit books found in school libraries across the state.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, called HB 900 “model legislation.”

State Sen. Angela Paxton (R–McKinney), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, noted the legislation intentionally puts responsibility on vendors, not teachers, librarians, or school district staff.

“I have no doubt that everyone who wants to sell books in Texas will find a way to make that work,” Paxton said Tuesday.

She also dismissed Democrats’ concerns that the bill targets books by or about certain groups.

“This is laser-focused on sexually explicit material … any material that is sexually explicit, regardless of the various demographic qualities of the author or the characters,” she said.

HB 900 passed the House in April with bipartisan support.

Democrat State Rep. Shawn Thierry (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.

A call to Thierry’s office on Wednesday revealed that not one person had signed off on any of the content.

The Senate passed the bill without amendments, per parents’ requests.

HB 900 now goes to Gov. Greg Abbott. He can sign or veto the bill; otherwise, it becomes law effective September 1.

House Bill 900, the Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources (READER) Act, does the following:

  • defines “sexually explicit materials;”
  • directs the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to adopt standards for school library collections that prohibit harmful, sexually explicit, and other unsuitable materials, by January 1, 2024;
  • sets guidelines for reviewing and rating books based on sexual content;
  • requires vendors to rate books sold to Texas schools based on their sexual content and label them as “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant” by April 1, 2024;
  • requires parental consent for students to access sexually relevant material;
  • requires vendors to recall all “sexually explicit” books previously sold to schools; and
  • prohibits vendors from selling “sexually explicit” books to schools, or from selling any books to schools until they issue ratings.
Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.