Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to date with the most essential Texas news.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday called on state education officials to develop statewide standards preventing “pornography” and “other obscene content in Texas public schools,” citing two memoirs on LGBTQ characters that include graphic images and gender descriptions.
Abbott’s directive to the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and the State Board of Education comes days after the governor asked another entity – the Texas Association of School Boards – to determine in which Measure “pornography or other inappropriate content” exists in public schools across the state and remove it if found. Corn the association told Abbott he had no regulatory power over school districts and suggested that the governor direct his investigation to the TEA or the SBOE.
Political back-and-forth following Keller ISD’s removal of a book – “Gender Queer: a Memoir” by Maia Kobabe – from one of its high school libraries after some parents expressed concerns about the images graphics of books. Kobabe’s graphic novel chronicles the author’s own journey with gender identity. At one point, it includes illustrations of oral sex and other sexual content, as well as discussions of pronouns, acceptance, and hormone-blocking drugs.
In his November 8 letter, Abbott referred to this book along with Carmen Maria Machado’s “In the Dream House”, which the governor said “describes overtly sexual and pornographic acts.” removed from Leander Independent School District classrooms. “In the Dream House” is a memoir that examines an abusive relationship between two women.
Abbott told education officials on Monday that the Texas Association of School Boards had “tried to wash their hands of the problem by abdicating responsibility for it.”
“In view of this negligence, the State of Texas is now asking you to do what the Texas Association of School Boards refuses to do,” Abbott wrote, saying the standards developed by the entities “must provide transparency on the material. taught in class and available in school libraries.
In statements later Monday, the heads of TEA and SBOE said they would work side-by-side to develop these statewide standards, as requested by the governor.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said the TEA “takes seriously” Abbott’s “call to action on this matter of great importance to the families of students in public schools in the United States. Texas ”. And Keven Ellis, president of the SBOE, said that families in Texas public schools “should be assured that their children are not at risk of being exposed to pornographic and obscene material while they are in school.”
The issue of inappropriate content in public schools has also recently come to the attention of State Representative Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth, who has launched a survey in some school districts into the types of books students can access. . Krause, a member of the diehard conservative group of the Texas House Freedom Caucus who is also running for state attorney general, included in his investigation a list of around 850 books that included novels on racism and sexuality and asked districts to identify which of these books were available on school campuses.
The lawmaker, who asked districts if they had these books and how much money had been spent on them, declined to provide details beyond that, saying he did not want to “jeopardize” an investigation. current or potential as chairman of the House General Inquiry Committee. .
Meanwhile, another Texas House Republican, State Representative Jeff Cason of Bedford, called on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to launch a statewide investigation into Kobabe’s novel. and others with similar content. The attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
The drama unfolded against the backdrop of the legislature passing two laws earlier this year restricting the way teachers can talk about race-related topics in school.
GOP lawmakers have argued for legislation to reject what they describe as “critical race theory,” an academic discipline that argues that racism is ingrained in legal systems and not confined to individuals. It is taught at the university level, although it has become a common phrase used by some Republicans to include anything race-related taught or discussed in public high schools.
Brian Lopez contributed to this report.
Disclosure: The Texas Association of School Boards has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.