As parents across the country confront their local school boards over their children’s education, safety, and reading materials, one school district in Southeast Texas is responding to parental pressure.
At a Waller ISD school board meeting held November 8, a father stood up and used his three minutes of speaking time to read explicitly pornographic passages from books found in Waller ISD libraries. The parent questioned why their children sit in seminars on dating and sexual violence if the school fosters such violence through these books.
“How do these passages not violate the school’s sexual harassment policy or the student code of conduct?” he asked the board.
Concerned parents in Waller ISD filed a Public Information Act request from their school district to access the records showing who approved these books, as well as a list of other books that came in on the same shipments to determine if they should look for more explicit material in the school libraries.
Waller ISD Superintendent Kevin Moran responded to parents on November 10 and laid out a plan of action that includes removing the books in question from the library shelves.
Moran noted, however, that all of those books were approved by the Texas Education Agency. He added that Waller ISD is now implementing a more rigorous reviewing process to ensure the library books are appropriate for the students’ age groups.
According to Moran, “While we do not condone censorship, we do believe that books should be placed in school libraries appropriate to the ages and maturities of the children served.”
Currently, all of the reading material in question has been removed from the library shelves and is housed in the principal’s office. Students may check out those books with a parent-signed permission slip.
Superintendent Moran assured parents that their concerns will be addressed by their student’s teacher or principal and that WISD is “firmly committed to an open dialogue with students, families, and community to work together to do what is best for our students.”
News of these books in schools broke about two weeks ago in Keller ISD when a group of mothers found explicit material in the book titled “Gender Queer,” which was made available to students. Since then, parents across the state have been checking their school libraries for explicit material.
Gov. Greg Abbott originally requested that the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB)—a non-governmental organization—address the issue. The TASB responded and directed Abbott to address the issue with the Texas Education Agency (TEA). This week, Abbott submitted a letter to the TEA as well as the State Library and Archives Commission and the Texas State Board of Education, requesting that they address the protocols that have allowed pornographic material into schools. He has also directed the TEA to report any presence of pornography in school libraries to law enforcement.