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New Policy Could Limit Librarians’ Autonomy in Fort Bend ISD

Fort Bend ISD board members are discussing a new policy that would give Superintendent Marc Smith the power to review the content on library shelves, reducing the district librarian’s autonomy in selecting books.

Smith, however, said he would likely continue to delegate those decisions to a committee of certified educators, as is the current practice when books are challenged.

The proposed policy discussed at Wednesday’s board workshop could eliminate the formal reconsideration process if a book meets certain criteria, such as “stimulat(ing) sexual desire.”

Currently, books can be removed through a formal reconsideration process involving a committee and rubric-scoring or through the general weeding process managed by librarians. Last year, district librarians removed 70 titles during a review of graphic novels, and a fiction content review is beginning this month.

As reported by the Houston Chronicle, the policy faced strong opposition from librarians and community members when it was proposed in April. However, Smith then emphasized the importance of including diverse opinions in these decisions.

Trustees David Hamilton and Sonya Jones, who supported the policy, brought it forward in response to House Bill 900, also known as the READER Act. This law, effective since September 1, mandates that instructional materials are not obscene, pervasively vulgar, or harmful, with violators facing potential criminal charges. The bill is partially tied up in court proceedings, so guidance from the Texas Association of School Boards on compliance is still pending.

Hamilton has submitted dozens of the books complaints, including Maragret Atwood’s “the Handmaid’s Tale”, calling the book “anti-religious” and that it intended to “sexualize readers and manipulate them into viewing religion as bad for the world.”

However, Hamilton admitted that he had not read the whole book.

Jones mentioned that while she valued certain books like those by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Richard Wright for her own children, she felt such titles should not be available to all students without parental guidance.

Trustee Angie Hanan, however, argued that all students deserve access to diverse literature, even if their parents cannot guide them through mature themes. She supported maintaining the review committee in the policy but suggested an addendum allowing the superintendent to intervene in emergencies.

Parents and community members attended Wednesday’s meeting to oppose the policy, citing concerns that recent book challenges disproportionately targeted books with LGBTQ+ characters and themes.

Since April, 32 books have undergone the formal review process, compared to just three in the previous two years.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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