The Texas Education Association Encourages Parent Feedback on Library Materials
In a disconcerting move that undermines the educational and professional judgment of library and media specialists, the Texas Education Association (TEA) has released new guidelines for handling “obscene content” in schools. The TEA encourages parental input into the selection of materials by ensuring that books are readily available on school library websites – although they are already available through library catalogs – and that school librarians should request parents which books their children “can” and “cannot” read.
Additionally, the new guidelines would give school boards the final say on materials purchased for the library, allowing the library to be dictated by whoever fills those roles, as opposed to librarians. TEA reminded its members that there are laws against serving inappropriate material to minors, without specifying what those laws are (presumably obscenity laws, which do not apply, regardless of the popularity of the ‘expression).
The guidelines are believed to come in response to pressure from the governor and legislative bodies.
The TEA sent a letter this week to Governor Abbott, noting that there have been several instances of “inappropriate” and “pornographic” material found in school libraries. Presumably, these include titles on the messy list of 850 titles sent out by Rep. Matt Kraus last fall that have little rhyme or reason, other than targeting books by and about queer people and people of color. Abbott has promised a ‘parental rights’ bill in recent weeks, just in time for his re-election and the criticism he’s received from far-right groups who don’t think he’s conservative enough to earn another term.
Morath, commissioner of education, is appointed by the governor and was appointed by Abbott in 2016. He has no education background other than being elected to the Dallas Independent School Board (DISD) in 2011 and left his work in the technology sector after . He remained on the board until the next election, drawing criticism for his role in promoting “home rule” in DISD, which would eliminate guarantees for teachers’ jobs and salaries, as well as only to lengthen their working days without a subsequent salary increase. The move did not go through, although Abbott’s appointment of Morath to TEA suggests his endorsement of the move. Local autonomy would essentially allow a school district to create and follow its own rules within the limits of federal and state laws. In other words, this would allow the school board to exercise significant power over the management of the school.
Schools do not need to follow TEA guidelines, but smaller districts, as well as districts with highly politicized boards, including the Granbury Independent School District and the Northeast Independent School District, seem to be arenas of choice for its creation.
Although these are nonpartisan positions, school boards have become the latest targets of a series of right-wing groups, including Moms for Liberty, which has a large, vocal and persuasive presence in Texas. The new TEA guidelines would only load these councils more with ideologies, rather than their intended work of hiring and evaluating directors, evaluating policies, and determining budgets, schedules, and schedules. ‘hiring. Assuming the role of evaluating library materials goes beyond their mission.
For a party that demands hands-off policies, right-wing politicians in Texas (and elsewhere) have done their job as hands-on as possible, down to picking out individual books from school library collections. In schools that choose to follow this policy, it will only be a matter of time before school librarian roles are eliminated as an excess – the board can do this job, right?
As Texas goes, so often does much of the rest of the nation. Now is the time to run for your local school board, write letters to your political representatives, and speak out against these gross violations of First Amendment rights.