Among books pulled from the library of a school in the country’s Bible belt is, believe it or not, the Bible.
Keller Independent School District removed all books from the library that were challenged by parents last year. The list of 41 books a district official told principals to yank from shelves include the Bible, “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison and a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.”
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The district superintendent of schools, facing intense criticism after news coverage of the policy, countered with a statement on the district website.
“I want to assure you that Keller ISD is not banning the Bible or the Diary of Anne Frank, as has been suggested in some headlines and shared on social media,” Keller ISD Superintendent of Schools Rick Westfall said in a statement.
Texas Education Code’s Section 31.002 invests authority for approving library books with the district’s board of education. Texas encourages parent review of educational material and provides a formal means for parents to object. The statute does not require removal from the library while a parental request for removal is considered, a process mandated to be conducted within a 10-day period.
A Thursday telephone request for comment from the superintendent was not returned.
The Texas Tribune further reported.
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.),” Jennifer Price, executive director of Keller ISD’s curriculum and instruction, wrote in an email sent to principals, obtained by The Texas Tribune.
The direction to remove all 41 books surprised some local residents because a school district committee made up of members of the public met last year and recommended that some of the books now being removed — including Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and “Anne Frank’s Diary” — remain in student libraries.
But since that committee met and recommended keeping some challenged books, three new conservative school board members, all recipients of a Christian political action committee’s donations, were elected to the district’s seven-member board of trustees. And according to the school district, all 41 challenged books are now to be reviewed again by campus staff and librarians to see if they meet a new board policy approved last week, according to Bryce Nieman, the Keller ISD spokesperson.
Nieman said the school board, with its three newest members elected last spring, unanimously approved a new policy for acquiring and reviewing books. The policies are, in part, based on the Texas Education Agency’s model policy released in April after calls from Gov. Greg Abbott to come up with a state standard for these procedures. This includes the school board members or someone appointed by them, having the power to accept or reject any materials.
Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the free expression via literature, said in a statement that the Keller ISD directive “tramples” on the work committee members did over the last year to their list.
“The sweeping attempt to remove these titles from classrooms and libraries on the eve of a new school year is an appalling affront to students’ First Amendment rights. It is virtually impossible to run a school or a library that purges books in response to any complaint from any corner,” Friedman said.