AUSTIN, Texas — As the State Board of Education meets this week to consider how schools teach climate change and sexuality, the board chair weighed in on the role the board could take about what goes on a school’s library shelf.

“What is placed in a library is a local decision, as it should be that way. And typically it’s board policy,” Keven Ellis, State Board of Education chairman, told Capital Tonight. “Another question comes out that when a book is identified, when it can be pulled out. And there’s a very formal, transparent grievance process that a book may be pulled out. There’s also settled case law on this. The Supreme Court has said a book may be pulled off the shelf if it is vulgar or obscene, but not necessarily for a thought or an idea.”

Gov. Greg Abbott wants the board to remove books with "overtly sexual" content in school libraries. He’s also tasked the Education Commissioner, SBOE and Texas State Library and Archives Commission with developing standards for what gets into libraries. The governor’s order came after state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, launched an investigation into certain school districts over what books students can access.

“What this process will probably look like is the Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission has a document about how good libraries are run and that document is developed by the Commission and adopted or approved by the SBOE. So I believe what will happen is the libraries commission will go back and amend that document, make some changes to it, which then comes to the State Board of Education, that will be a guiding document for local districts to use in these decisions,” Ellis said.  

SBOE members also preliminarily voted Wednesday on proposed changes to eighth grade science guidelines. Under the proposed curriculum, students are expected to learn how "natural events and human activity can impact global climate." Scientists say there's no can about it, but a majority of the board voted to keep the word. 

“SBOE members don’t actually write the curriculum standards, we have educators and workgroups who do this and they came to us with the verbiage and the board voted to leave that in, that human events and climate can be affected by humans,” Ellis said.  

When pressed how that could affect what students learn about climate change, Ellis pointed to high school language that teaches evidence-based explanations on global climate change.

“So part of it’s a progression from the early grades up into the high school grades for how that gets taught,” he said.  

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the board declined to preliminarily adopt middle and high school health instructional materials that addressed such topics as contraception, gender identity and self-harm. The board will take a final vote on the materials on Friday.

Click the video link above to watch our full interview with Ellis.