AUSTIN, Texas — Saying that the Texas Association of School Boards “abdicated responsibility,” Gov. Greg Abbott Monday called on the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the Texas State Board of Education to “shield children from pornography, inappropriate content in Texas public schools.”

What You Need To Know

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday sent a letter to the heads of three state education agencies calling on them to “shield children from pornography, inappropriate content in public schools”

  • Abbott earlier called on the Texas Association of School Boards to do the same but said the board “abdicated responsibility”

  • In a statement, the Texas Association of School Boards said it has no authority to dictate what content is made available to public school students

  • Abbott’s request comes after Republican state Rep. Matt Krause launched a campaign to investigate books in public schools dealing with race, sexual orientation and gender identity

Abbott has joined state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, in his campaign to investigate books in public schools that cover topics including race, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Abbott earlier in November called on the Texas Association of School Boards to take the lead in the initiative but, according to him, the board has been “negligent” in this regard.

“Instead of addressing the concerns of parents and shielding Texas children from pornography in public schools, the Texas Association of School Boards has attempted to wash its hands clean of the issue by abdicating any and all responsibility in the matter,” Abbott wrote in a letter to the heads of the three aforementioned state education agencies.

Krause, who chairs the House General Investigating Committee, has sent state and local school officials a list of more than 800 books dealing with those subjects and related issues, asking them to search for the books on their campuses. Krause wants the schools to advise which of the books and how many they possess, where they are kept and how they were paid for.

Many of the books on the list were written by women, people of color and LGBTQ writers and cover topics including teen pregnancy and abortion. Krause’s inquiry comes after Abbott signed a law similar to those approved by legislatures in other GOP-controlled states limiting how race and racism can be taught in schools. In Texas, that includes the idea that the advent of slavery in what is now the United States marks the true founding of the nation.

In his latest letter, Abbott cites a book that has been removed from a school library and another that was taken away from a classroom.

“For example, Keller Independent School District was recently compelled to remove a book from a school library titled Gender Queer: a Memoir by Maia Kobabe after complaints of the book’s pornographic drawings. Additionally, Leander Independent School District recently removed several books from classrooms because of inappropriate content. This included a book titled In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, which describes overtly sexual and pornographic acts,” Abbott wrote.

Abbott didn’t elaborate on what makes those images qualify as pornography or the passages that include pornographic acts.

The Texas Association of School Boards says it has no authority to dictate what materials school districts make available to students and that those decisions are typically made at the local level. The board released the following statement:

"We have received Governor Abbott’s letter regarding parent concerns about books and the content reportedly found in some Texas public school libraries. We are confused, though, as to why this letter was sent to the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), which has no regulatory authority over school districts and does not set the standards for instructional materials, including library books.

“The role of a school board primarily includes establishing a strategic plan for the district, adopting policies in public meetings, approving the district’s budget, and selecting and evaluating a superintendent.

“In most school districts, the review and selection of individual library materials traditionally has been an administrative responsibility managed by professional district staff.

“Of course, school board trustees care deeply about parent concerns and community input. That’s why local school boards have policies and processes in place for parents to express their concerns about any matter affecting their local school community — including the challenge of library materials."

Critics say this is yet another attempt by Abbott to appeal to his base as he heads into a primary with two challengers pushing him to the right. ​

“It’s mostly political posturing. The fact that this is labeled as pornography is misleading. It might be considered to be too far for some students, maybe too much. But it's clear that this is politically motivated and connected to these larger concerns about how the state polices what school boards can do," said Brandon Rottinghaus, political science professor at the University of Houston. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.