Governor Abbott’s directive prompts debate over books allowed in schools

State Representative Matt Krause, acting as chair of the House Committee on General Investigating, notified the Texas Education Agency that he is “initiating an inquiry into Texas school district content,” according to an October 25 letter obtained by The Texas Tribune.

The Tribune further states that, “Krause's letter provides a 16-page list of about 850 book titles and asks the districts if they have these books, how many copies they have and how much money they spent on the books.”

After this, Governor Abbott, “directed the Texas Education Agency, the State Board of Education, and the Texas Library and Archives Commission to develop standards to prevent the presence of what he called “pornography and other obscene content” in Texas schools,” reports the Texas Standard.

Abbott then stepped things up with a letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath on Wednesday, November 10, calling on more immediate action while standards are being developed.

The Texas Library Association reports the starting of a “social media campaign emphasizing support for diverse books and student access to books, launched by a group of Texas Library Association member librarians, was an astounding success, generating more than 13,000 tweets on Twitter with the hashtag #FReadom on Thursday, November 4. Nationally, it trended as high as 7th on Twitter’s hot topics for the day.

Since that successful campaign, a website has been launched, as well as the Twitter account @FReadomFighters; and there’s now #FReadom Fridays to keep the momentum of this movement going.”

For the Texas Library Association, Carolyn Foote, a library consultant and a longtime TLA member says, “Our goal was to energize teachers and librarians and authors. There are huge numbers of people out there who support diverse books and children’s access to books.”

The Texas Institute of Letters also responded, penning an open letter to the school districts in the State of Texas that states, “We at the Texas Institute of Letters—the Officers, Council Members, and Members—stand against the vague, political attacks meant to intimidate school officials and librarians whose collections feature books by women, people of color, and LGBTQ writers. These attacks are preludes to book banning and censorship.”

TIL continues, later saying, “And who is the target of these destructive politics? Readers in marginalized communities who suddenly see the books that inspire them and give meaning to their lives threatened with banning. Parents who understand that fostering empathy is one of the most important achievements of reading widely. Librarians, writers, and all citizens who understand that the banning of books has often led to authoritarianism that destroys freedom of thought and encourages the cruel and powerful to prey on the vulnerable.”

The TIL ends their impactful letter by saying, “Let us all stand together for the power of reading, meaningful education, and the freedom of thought captured in literature, especially from marginalized voices,” and includes signatures of over 175 members of the organization.

The situation continues to develop.