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Texas lawmaker investigates books in schools, experts outline existing review process

Posted at 9:46 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 20:52:29-05

One Texas lawmaker has begun an investigation into the books that Texas school districts have on their shelves.

The 16-page list of over 800 books titles was sent to the Texas Education Agency along with Texas schools. In a letter, State Rep. Matt Krause asked the districts if these books are on their shelves.

The letter from Krause said he is "initiating an inquiry into Texas school district content" as preliminary information for the investigation.

Dr. Roslyn Schoen, an assistant sociology professor at Texas A&M-Central Texas, said there is a process already in place to review instructional material within schools.

Politicians are not trained to build curriculum or assess curriculum.
- Dr. Roslyn Schoen

"Even at the higher end, university-level, we talk all the time about how it is the teachers the educators who are the experts in what these titles are, what they should be, and how students should engage with them," said Schoen.

Because, that's what educators are trained to do, they're trained to understand that, they're trained to build curriculum. Politicians are not trained to build curriculum or assess curriculum."

Dr. Tam Jones, a former superintendent walks us through the established process to review instructional materials.

"Districts try to provide a wide variety of materials ... sometimes something comes up that someone gets upset with and feels like it needs to be scrutinized, I guess you can say challenged," said Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones said parents have access at their fingertips to look at the selection criteria of books in schools, and instructions on how they can construct a formal or informal challenge to any books they contest.

"The principal sits down informally, or the librarian, and they go over the selection process for the material," said Dr. Jones. "They talk about the criteria ... and the qualifications of the people who selected the material."

Parents can find more information about challenging instructions, on their school district's website: by searching for board policy, clicking on 'Instruction', and then 'Instructional Resources'.

From there, parents can access the legal (or state) information on the selection process of instructional materials, and the local process for that district as well. While the process for finding these policies online may vary, Dr. Jones said schools should be able to provide them or lay them out for any district residents.

"There may be an alternative to a particular book that will cover the same content but maybe it leaves out the portion a person is upset with," said Dr. Jones.

For the time being, Schoen said the investigation may have a chilling effect on educators and prompt the pre-emptive removal of some of these titles from school shelves.

"What is striking to me about this list though is how extensive it is and how it is really a catch-all for anything that someone might be uncomfortable with, so issues of race, but also books about history, books about the body, books about puberty, and books about sexuality as well," said Schoen.