A day before classes began for its roughly 35,000 students, the Keller Independent School District announced a last-minute review of dozens of books that had been questioned in the previous school year, an email obtained by The Washington Post shows. . While those conflicts had already been resolved by book committees made up of parents, librarians, administrators and teachers, policies adopted earlier this month by the new school board led to the withdrawal of 41 publications, including classics like Toni Morrison’s.the bluest eye.”
The board cited parental concerns about adult content, including depictions of sexual activity. But in November, a parent also voiced his opposition to “any variations” of the Bible being in schools. A second challenge followed in December, and although a board review initially determined that the Bible would remain in its current location in the library, it too was caught up in Tuesday’s raid.
The removal of the Anne Frank diary adaptation has sparked backlash ever since it was announced. In a joint statement Wednesday, the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and its Council on Jewish Community Relations expressed disappointment with the decision and urged the school district to “put back the book on the shelf.
“It is imperative that we teach our children about the Holocaust in age-appropriate ways, as outlined in the Texas State Standards for Holocaust Education,” the statement read. “At a time of rising anti-Semitism, we must be particularly vigilant so that nothing like the Holocaust can happen again.”
A The school district spokesperson told The Post that “books that meet the new guidelines will be returned to libraries as soon as they are confirmed to meet the new policy.” in a facebook postboard chairman Charles Randklev said the review was necessary “to protect children from sexually explicit content.”
But for Hawes, whose four children are students in the district, the decision to remove the books from the shelves underscores how politics has seeped into school boards, a trend that has been playing out across the United States.
“These are people who want to bring political culture wars into our schools,” Hawes told The Post. “We can have those fights all we want in other places, but don’t bring them to my kids’ schools.”
Book challenges are nothing new, but they’ve risen feverishly over the past year, as a growing right-wing movement embraces them as a political talking point. an april report by PEN America, a free speech advocacy organization, found that 1,586 books were banned in 86 school districts from July 2021 to March 2022, affecting more than 2 million students. Texas, where a legislator distributed a 850 book watch list last year, it ranked above the 25 other states that have bans, with 713 book bans, according to the report.
At Keller Schools, the list of challenged books includes LGBTQ touchstones like “” by Alison Bechdel.Fun Home: a family tragicomic”; volumes of poetry like Rupi Kaur’s “milk and honey”; and young adult novels like Jesse Andrews’Earl and me and the dying girl” and the throne of glass Sarah J. Maas series. Many focus on gay or transgender characters. All had been reviewed by district book committees, and some were approved, removed, or assigned age restrictions.
In the spring, Hawes, one of the parents on the book committee, had been called in to discuss a complaint about Ari Folman and David Polonsky. adaptation of “The diary of a girl.” Based on the unabridged version of Anne Frank’s diary, it was acclaimed by the New York Times Book Review as “so attractive and effective that it is easy to imagine it replacing the Daily in classrooms and among younger readers. The novel illustrates the hope and despair Frank felt during the time she was hiding from the Nazis inside a small annex. But it also includes some of her references to female genitalia and a possible attraction to women. The parent who complained about the book did not show up for the book committee review, so it is unclear what that person objected to. Hawes said.
The committee of about eight people ultimately voted to keep the book, but only in middle and high school libraries, as it was labeled a young adult novel.
“We were very excited because we thought we had saved this book and done our duty,” Hawes said. “And then the school board election happened the following week and the dynamics of the school board changed.”
Keller is one of the 20 school districts in Tarrant County, a politically divided area where Joe Biden won by alone 1,826 votes in the 2020 presidential election. The election results ignited a conservative push to take over school boards in the county, Hawes said. Patriot Mobile Action, a Christian political action committee based in Texas, supported and financed the campaigns of 11 school board candidates countywide, who won. Three of them joined Keller’s seven-person board of directors in May.
One of his first moves was to review the district’s book selection. In August 8the new board adopted two policies endorsed by the state department of education related to acquisition Y revision teaching materials and library books.
During that Aug. 8 meeting, some parents thanked the new board for its swift attempts to “remove sexually explicit pornographic materials” — efforts, one parent said, that began last October, when the right-wing Twitter account TikTok notebooks showed that the school owned a copy of Maia Kobabe”Gender Queer: A Memoir”, which has been challenged in many districts.
Hawes recognized that not all books are appropriate for all children. But “calling them porn just shuts down the whole conversation because we’re not in the same reality,” she said.
“We can agree or disagree, but these are important and reasonable conversations that we need to have as parents,” Hawes said.
“How are we suddenly in a place where we can’t hear each other or find any kind of compromise?” she added.