Keller Independent School District staff were surprised to learn this week that they had a new charge as they prepared for a new school year. Staff received an email on Tuesday morning informing them that every book on the attached spreadsheet needed to be removed by the end of the day for review.
“By the end of today, I need all books pulled from the library and classrooms. More information will be sent regarding action for these books,” wrote Jennifer Price, Director of Curriculum for Keller ISD. “Once this has been completed, please email me a confirmation. We need to ensure this action is taken by the end of today.”
Books included on the list were those already approved for inclusion following a long–and still ongoing–series of challenges in the district. Titles pulled this week include The Bluest Eye, The Diary of Anne Frank (the graphic novel), and The Bible. The decision to re-review the books previously deemed acceptable comes on the heels of the Board of Trustees adopting a new challenge policy for the 2022-2023 school year.
The new policy allows all books to be reviewed by the public for 30 days before they’re purchased for the library and requires books being challenged to be removed from shelves while they’re being reviewed. The first ensures that libraries will be unable to do their job in providing timely material, as it must pass the approval of the public. This undermines the professional credentials of library workers and puts significant power into the hands of a vocal minority of parents in the district. The second revokes access to materials from students, whether the book is deemed appropriate or not by the materials review committee.
Keller ISD’s new policies, both available here, were modeled after the Texas Education Agency’s draft policy released in April. The agency’s policy puts more control of materials selection into the hands of parents, and the agency itself is overseen by a commissioner appointed by Governor Greg Abbott.
The Keller ISD School Board underwent a change following the spring 2022 election and three new faces joined. The three new members were all endorsed by right-wing Patriot Mobile Action, and as one speaker during public comment of the latest meeting said, “We are very pleased that our new unwoke school board has made these changes. This is just the beginning, I hope.”
Despite Texas being a state where school boards are nonpartisan, hyper conservative groups funded successful campaigns throughout the state, including Keller. All three of the new members have ties to Moms For Liberty in Tarrant County, as well as KISD Family Alliance, a book banning Political Action Group that has raised nearly $50,000 to support their efforts.
As of now, all books are still being considered, and students began classes on Wednesday without access to books already approved for their use. They will continue this year with at least a 30 day holding period on all new potential items for their libraries. The new materials policy puts the work of materials selection and access to vetted information by trained professionals into the hands of politicians with deep pockets. Keller ISD’s board election was bought, and now, they’re going to buy the educations of young people in the district.
You can view the entire list of books being challenged and reviewed in Keller ISD here.
Sign this petition hosted at EveryLibrary to share your concern about this move and to support students rights to books, libraries, and education.