AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Education Agency has provided school districts a new model policy for the review of library materials at the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, who sent a letter to the state agency last November expressing concern that schoolchildren were being exposed to pornographic materials in libraries.
The model policy, attached to correspondence known as ‘To the Administrator Addressed,’ was distributed through the agency’s governance and accountability division. The library policy quotes the Texas Penal Code to define what they consider to be inappropriate material for young readers.
“Texas Penal Code §43.24(a)(2) describes Material harmful material as material whose dominant theme taken as a whole: (1) appeals to the prurient interest of a minor, in sex, nudity, or excretion; (2) is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors; and (3) is utterly without redeeming social value for minors,” according to the proposed policy. “It is an offense in Texas to distribute this material in violation of Texas Penal Code §43.24(b). No library material shall be used if it contains content that can 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 U.S.C. §254(h)(5), including technology protection measures.”
In another section, the proposed policy requires school libraries to keep a list of materials on site and materials the school library expects to acquire.
“In recognizing that parents hold an essential role in the education Parent Review of their children and have the right to guide what their children read, each library shall maintain a printed list of materials onsite and on the school library website that shows what has been selected as well as what is slated for acquisition,” according to the policy. “The Superintendent, or designated District-level administrator, will offer a ‘Parent Preview’ at least ten days before books are to be placed on the shelves, once in the fall and once in the spring. Audio-visual materials are to 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 TEA and school district leaders around the state, asking districts whether they carried any of 850 book titles Krause identified as objectionable. He 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 onetime challenger to Attorney General Ken Paxton, is in the runoff for Tarrant County District Attorney. The run-off 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, issued two days later, asked TEA to refer any school district with pornographic materials for criminal prosecution on the Texas Penal Code.
The draft policy also defines guidelines for age-appropriate material and steps parents and community members can take to protest library materials. Those steps to protest are identical to what exists in draft policy the Texas Association of School Boards has provided to school districts.
Other sections of the policy outline acquisition procedures and a bi-annual review of library contents by the district library supervisor. The review is intended to remove materials no longer relevant to curriculum or the interests of students.