State agency offers guidance on school library book reviews
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Education Agency has provided school districts with a new model policy for reviewing library materials under Governor Greg Abbott, who sent a letter to the state agency last November expressing his concern that schoolchildren were being exposed to pornographic content. materials in libraries.
The model policy, attached to correspondence known as the “Director Addressed,” was distributed through the agency’s Governance and Accountability Division. Library policy cites the Texas Penal Code to define what they consider to be inappropriate material for young readers.
“Texas Penal Code §43.24(a)(2) describes harmful material as material whose dominant theme taken as a whole: (1) appeals to a minor’s lustful interest in sex, nudity or excretion; (2) is manifestly contrary to the norms prevailing in the adult community as a whole regarding what is appropriate for minors; and (3) is completely without social value for minors”, according to the policy “It is an offense in Texas to distribute this material in violation of Texas Penal Code §43.24(b). No library material should be used if it contains content that may meet the harmful material standard. Finally, collection development policies must demonstrate a commitment to compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) as specified in 47 USC §254(h)(5), including technology protection measures.
In another section, the proposed policy requires school libraries to maintain a list of on-site materials and materials that the school library expects to acquire.
“Recognizing that parents play a vital role in the Parent Review education of their children and have the right to guide what their children read, each library should maintain a printed list of materials on site and on the library’s website. curriculum that shows what has been selected as well as what is slated for acquisition,” according to the policy. “The superintendent, or the designated administrator at the district level, will offer a “parental preview” at least ten days before the books are placed on the shelves, once in the fall and once in the spring. Audio-visual materials should be made available to parents for in-person review, upon request, on the same basis as printed materials are made available.
Last October, Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, sent a letter to the TEA and school district leaders across the state, asking the districts if they had any of the 850 book titles Krause identified. as reprehensible. It also asked school districts to identify books that included human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, sexually explicit images, or graphic presentation of sexual behavior in violation of the law.
Krause, a former challenger to Attorney General Ken Paxton, is in the running for Tarrant County District Attorney. The second round will be decided on May 24.
Abbott sent two letters to TEA. The first letter asked TEA, in conjunction with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the State Board of Education, to draft a new policy for school library materials. A second letter, released two days later, asked TEA to refer any school district with pornographic material to criminal prosecution under the Texas Penal Code.
The draft policy also outlines guidelines for age-appropriate materials and steps parents and community members can take to protest library materials. These protest measures are identical to what exists in the draft policy that the Texas Association of School Boards provided to school districts.
Other sections of the policy outline acquisition procedures and a semi-annual review of library content by the district library supervisor. The review aims to remove materials that are no longer relevant to the curriculum or student interests.