San Antonio's North East ISD pulls 400 books from shelves for review at request of far-right lawmaker

click to enlarge Conservative crusader and hair-product novice State Rep. Matt Krause speaks in front of the Texas House. - Twitter / @RepMattKrause
Twitter / @RepMattKrause
Conservative crusader and hair-product novice State Rep. Matt Krause speaks in front of the Texas House.
A San Antonio's North East Independent School District has yanked more than 400 books from its shelves for review after a far-right Texas lawmaker demanded a probe of "objectionable" books in school libraries, according to the Texas Tribune.

NEISD — one of the state's largest districts — appears to be the first acting on a demand by Texas Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, that districts reveal whether they own copies of some 850 books related to race, gender issues or sexuality that he identified on a list. In an October letter, the lawmaker said he's investigating the existing of school reading material that "might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish."

Krause, who's running for Tarrant County district attorney, offered no explanation for how he compiled the list of books, which are largely written by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ writers. Among the titles on his 16-page spreadsheet are the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron and Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi, a young adult book dealing with sexual orientation.

“For us, this is not about politics or censorship, but rather about ensuring that parents choose what is appropriate for their minor children,” NEISD spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor told the Tribune. “Out of an abundance of caution, NEISD asked our staff to review books from the Krause list to ensure they did not have any obscene or vulgar material in them.”

Chancellor also told the Tribune that NEISD has 414 of the titles Krause included on his list and has already deemed 100 of those age appropriate. “This review process is moving quickly, and we anticipate the majority of books will be deemed appropriate,” she added.

Despite Chancellor's assurance that the review isn't about censorship, an online petition is asking the district to halt its review, saying the removed books provide a "safe haven" for marginalized students.

"Many black and LGBTQ students in NEISD are appalled and hurt by NEISD’s decision to comply with Matt Krause and suppress our harmless resources and stories," states the petition, which had more than 1,100 signatures around noon on Tuesday. "We are asking for NEISD to take action against the suppression of our resources..."

NEISD's move also drew condemnation from free-speech group PEN America, which said the district's removal of the reading material is inconsistent with existing policies for reviewing books.

It also notes that the request comes at a time when Texas Republicans are challenging books about race, gender and sexuality. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a latter last month calling for the Texas Education Agency, which has no law-enforcement authority, to launch a criminal probe into whether schools had provided students access to porn.

“Students deserve access to a wide range of books in school libraries; not to have that access removed at the behest of politicians," PEN America Director of Free Expression and Education Jonathan Friedman said in an emailed statement. “This is a predictable and unfortunate outcome of the recent demonization of schools, libraries and literature in the state, which stands to impede students' learning and imagination. Hopefully, North East ISD district leaders will realize that, and stand up for their students' right to read. The district should restore access to these books without delay and respond to any future challenges in line with existing district policies."

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