TEXAS (UKTN) During the 2021-2022 school year, Texas had more book bans than any other state in the nation, according to a new report from PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for free speech.
In North Texas, the controversy has unfolded during school board meetings in Granbury, Grapevine-Colleyville, and Keller.
PEN America found that local political and advocacy groups focus on books featuring LGBTQ+ characters and storylines, along with topics such as sexuality and racism.
“They’re turning these kids into political pawns and they’re trying to start a cultural war that will get them votes,” said Mary Woodard, president of the Texas Library Association. “And that’s a real shame, because it puts kids, teachers and librarians in the middle.”
The report documented about 800 book bans in more than 20 Texas school districts.
Keller ISD received national attention last month after it pulled dozens of books from the shelves, including the Bible and a graphical adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank.
A week later, the school board approved new content guidelines.
The district has a list on its website of which books are being reviewed and whether they have been permanently removed from circulation.
“I like what they do,” said Meagan Mahoney, parent of Keller ISD. “They’re giving it a fair shot… I think some books belong in schools, others in public libraries. I don’t think books should be banned in general. I think there’s a certain place for books.”
The Texas Library Association says each school district already has a transparent process for selecting library books, and certified librarians are trained in what is appropriate for age, maturity, and reading level.
Woodard is concerned that the increase in book bans will especially harm students from marginalized communities.
“The books are in the library to help kids build empathy for kids who are different from them,” she said. “They also help children explore complex problems and different perspectives.”
The Bible and Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaption have been returned to the library shelves in Keller ISD.
The district says any book challenged will be kept in an area with parental consent until it goes through the review process. It is unclear how long that will take.