A Texas school district is in a rush to remove certain books from the school library after a decision made by administrators required a review of certain books before the start of the school year.
The Keller Independent School District in the US state of Texas ordered 41 books to be reviewed under a new policy. A graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank's diary, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and the Bible were some of the titles pulled off the shelf ahead of the review. The order came a day before the start of the 2022/2023 school year.
The new guidelines provide a list to judge content, including profanity, drug use, and sex scenes. The ratings fall under three categories; prevalent, common, or minimal. This issue has been ongoing since last year, and more and more books are being added to the list. School board meetings have been discussing the issue since last October. In a meeting this past March, one speaker called access to challenged books a “crime.”
The executive director of Keller ISD's curriculum and instruction, Jennifer Price, wrote an email addressed to district principals, "Attached is a list of all books that were challenged last year. By the end of today, I need all books pulled from the library and classrooms. Please collect these books and store them in a location (book room, office, etc.),"
In a statement, the school district said, "All of the books included in Tuesday's email have been included on Keller ISD's Book Challenge list over the past year. Books that meet the new guidelines will be returned to the libraries as soon as it is confirmed they comply with the new policy."
According to a district spokesperson, The Bible was added to the list after a parent questioned the Christian scripture. According to the parent, The Bible had "Inappropriate content including sexual content, violence including rape, murder, human sacrifice, misogyny, homophobia, discrimination, and other inappropriate content." First challenged in November 2021, the person withdrew their complaint a month later.
The Christian holy book was also targeted in February by two additional complainants. One of them stated that the Bible "is a map to slavery, incest, sex between donkey and women, misogyny, murder, pedophilia, you name it, it's in there." The other saying, “Religion doesn’t belong in public schools. This book also describes multiple acts of sexuality and violence.”
The list included a graphic novel version of the Diary of Anne Frank. The story of a Jewish minor who lived under the Nazi regime in the Netherlands during World War II.
The removal of this book sparked the concern of the local Jewish community. The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth & Tarrant County said in a statement, "It is imperative that we teach our children about the Holocaust in age-appropriate ways, as outlined in Texas' state standards for Holocaust education." "At a time of rising antisemitism, we must be particularly vigilant so that nothing like the Holocaust can ever happen again. We urge the school district to put the book back on the shelf."
Dr. Rick Westfall, Keller ISD's superintendent, said, "We anticipate that books like the Bible, Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, and other titles will be on shelves very soon.". Westfall added, "the books will be promptly returned to shelves" if the challenged books pass the new standards.
A formal assessment conducted by Pen America between July 2021-March 2022 pointed out that 86 school districts out of 26 states had banned certain books. Most of the books that were forbidden had themes of sexuality and racism.
Book ban update: “As in many school districts in Texas, the decision to remove access to certain books for all students, based on the proclivities and demands of some parents, is a profound disappointment.” Statement here: https://t.co/7Muo1ezb8U
— PEN America (@PENamerica) December 2, 2021
Patriot Mobile Action heavily supported three current members of Keller ISD's board during their campaigns. This Christian political committee is known for its conservative ideology.