North East Independent School District in Texas pulled 400 books, mostly about social justice, off its shelves. But most will likely be put back.
A school district in Texas has preemptively removed Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestselling memoir, Between the World and Me, dedicated to his young Black son, and 400 additional books about social justice—in case they happen to be “vulgar.”It’s all part of one lawmaker’s crackdown on books about race, gender, and sexuality that he says aims to protect students from feeling “psychological distress because of their race or sex”—despite the fact that the listed books have the exact same goal.
North East Independent School District in San Antonio identified 414 books in its libraries, which are included in a list of about 850 titles compiled by Texas Rep. Matt Krause. The lawmaker chairs the House General Investigating Committee, and asked the Texas Education Agency in October to report whether schools have any of the listed books on their shelves, where they are located, and who paid for them. In his letter, Krause also asked schools to flag “any other books” that "might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex." Krause’s list is made up of fiction and nonfiction books, many about race, gender, sexuality, and sexual health. (Find the full list below, from the Texas Tribune.) Other titles include The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning The Confessions of Nat Turner, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, and The Cider House Rules, a novel that features a physician protagonist who performs illegal abortions. Several books about Roe v. Wade also made the list.
North East Independent School District—one of the largest in Texas—is likely the first district to take up Krause’s directive, the Texas Tribune reported. Other districts have been split on whether they’ll participate in Krause’s inquiries, with some planning to comply and others dismissing it altogether. Aubrey Chancellor, executive director of communications for the North East Independent School District, did not respond to a VICE News request for comment, but she told NBC News that Krause’s list is a “jumping-off point” for the district, which is currently reviewing the 400-plus titles “out of an abundance of caution.” Chancellor said books are being vetted for obscenity, vulgarity, and “age-appropriateness,” and those deemed appropriate will be placed back on the shelves. “For us, this is not about politics or censorship, but rather about ensuring that parents choose what is appropriate for their minor children,” she told reporters. “This review process is moving quickly and we anticipate the majority of books will be deemed appropriate.”
According to the Tribune, the school is implementing a system that will allow parents to see what books their children are checking out. A petition against the school district’s move has already garnered nearly 2,500 signatures. “These books serve an important place in our community, as they not only provide important educational resources on Black history, they also provide a safe haven for young LGBTQ students who take comfort in this representation,” the petition says.Several U.S. states, including Missouri, Virginia, and Florida, have been marked by an onslaught of pressure from parents, clearly adamant about having their children read less about race, colonialism, sexuality, and reproductive and sexual health. The American Library Association dubbed the concerning trend as “the latest dangerous fad sweeping the nation.”Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.