Texas Education Agency Outlines School Library Books Policy

Texas Education Agency Outlines School Library Books Policy a graduation cap and the texas flag lay on a brown table (Akeksandr Berdyugin/Dreamstime)

By Nicole Wells | Tuesday, 12 April 2022 11:25 AM

In response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's call to develop standards for school library books, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) outlined a model materials policy Monday that spells out how parents and local officials can decide what is appropriate.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Abbott, who is running for reelection, requested the agency come up with guidelines last November, amid a conservative push to remove books from school library shelves that discuss LGBTQ topics and critical race theory.

While the TEA recommends school boards review its suggestions and consider making adjustments to their current policies, it is not mandating they do so.

The policy says districts should make the "selection process of library materials readily available for parental review, with a list of all library materials posted on-line on the district's website."

Each library should also have a list of its books, both onsite and online, so parents can see what is currently available and what is scheduled to be purchased.

The policy also recommends that districts offer a fairly regular "parent preview" before books are deposited on shelves.

Before a book is added to the library's collection, the policy advises it should be read by a library supervisor.

Individual parental requests should be honored, regarding what kinds of books their children are allowed to borrow.

Additionally, the TEA policy outlines a process that can be used when districts receive parent complaints about specifics titles and demand they be removed from library shelves.

The policy states that districts should form a "reconsideration committee" within 10 days to review a book that has been challenged. Everyone on the committee should then read the book and vote on its fate, according to the policy.

Decisions must consider the Supreme Court's 1982 plurality opinion, which found local school boards cannot pull books from campus libraries merely because they disagree with the expressed ideas.

The Morning News reported the TEA launched an investigation into Keller ISD in December after a complaint was made about "sexually explicit content" in library books. State officials are evaluating if the district failed to properly review and monitor library books for appropriateness.

A flurry of book challenges have descended on schools across Texas, according to the Morning News, even as free speech advocates have decried the effort to ban certain titles as chilling and without precedent.

In February, the ACLU of Texas accused Granbury ISD of violating the Constitution by removing books from library shelves. According to the Morning News, the Hood County district pulled more than 125 titles from campus libraries as part of an investigation triggered by Republican state leadership.

The TEA's model policy stressed that locally elected trustees would bear ultimate responsibility for the appropriateness of library books.