A Texas Republican lawmaker has launched an investigation to identify books in libraries and public school classrooms on topics of race or gender that could “make students uncomfortable.”
State Representative Matt Krause, a Republican who chairs the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, sent a letter Monday informing the Texas Education Agency of the investigation and asking a number of school districts to report which books in a list of hundreds of titles owned by schools and how much money they spent to acquire those titles.
The books listed by Krause are fictional and non-fiction titles that address a wide range of topics including race and racism, sex, gender identity, reproductive rights, and Latin, black history. and Native American, according to a copy of the list obtained by the Texas Tribune.
The inquiry comes as Texas continues to be at the center of a debate over how race and history are taught in schools. After months of legislative efforts to ban critical race theory from classrooms, a state law came into effect last month preventing teachers from discussing certain race-related concepts and controversial current events in their courts.
In the October 25 letter, obtained by CNN and first reported by the Texas Tribune, Krause asks superintendents to identify the books listed as well as any other books relating to “human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases or the virus. human immunodeficiency (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), sexually explicit images, graphic presentations of sexual behavior “or material that” might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or gender or convey that a student, because of their race or gender, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. “
Lawmakers gave school officials until Nov. 12 to respond to its investigation, but did not indicate what the next steps in its investigation would be.
Krause is one of many Republican candidates who challenge Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to seek re-election in the March party primary. CNN has reached out to Rep Krause for comment.
In a statement, the Texas Education Agency chose not to comment on the investigation, saying it was outside its jurisdiction and had addressed questions to the state committee.
Rep. of State Victoria Neave, a Democrat representing Dallas and vice-chair of the committee, said she did not approve of Krause’s investigation and said Republicans are “whitewashing our history” just as communities of color drive population growth in the State.
“This is a new attempt by Republicans to censor the votes of people of color after 10 months of seizures such as the advancement of anti-election legislation, discriminatory redistribution cards and censorship of this that educators teach in school, ”Neave said in a statement.
The state’s legislative caucuses for Blacks, Mexicans, LGBTs and Women’s Health condemned the investigation, saying it was an attack on the freedom to teach educators and schools.
The survey is a “fairly extensive” task for schools
Krause’s letter says it was sent to a “selected” group of state superintendents, but does not specify how many or which.
Nearly a dozen school districts, including some of the state’s largest, told CNN on Thursday that they received Krause’s letter earlier this week.
In San Antonio, Barry Perez, spokesperson for the Northside Independent School District, called the lawmaker’s request “quite broad” and said the district “did not have enough time to fully consider the request and that we had not started to compile information “to answer it. this.
“It will take a long time to research each title and determine which ones we have, on which campuses, how many copies and the cost of each,” said Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, spokesperson for the Round Rock Independent School. District, which is located just north of Austin. She added that the district legal department was reviewing the request.
Krause wrote in his letter that some school districts in Texas had already removed materials from their classrooms after receiving complaints from parents. Earlier this month, the Katy Independent School District, a suburb 30 miles west of Houston, deleted books by author Jerry Craft and postponed a virtual event following a complaint that his books promoted the theory. criticism of the breed.
Spokesmen for the Katy School District and another district Krause mentioned confirmed officials had received the letter and reviewed it.
Another neighborhood in Keller, a city in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, received Krause’s request the same week school administrators discovered and removed an illustrated book containing “inappropriate images.” The book, “Gender Queer, A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, is one of hundreds of books listed by Krause.
“Illustrations like this should never be available in the school environment. Ensuring that our teaching materials are suitable for students is a priority for Keller ISD. We are changing the process we use to review and approve books and associated material to avoid future incidents, ”the district said in a statement shared with CNN.
“An obvious attack on diversity”
Ovidia Molina, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, called Krause’s request to school officials a “witch hunt” and “disturbance and political overtaking in the classroom.”
“This is a clear attack on diversity and an attempt to score political points at the expense of our children’s education,” Moline said. “What will Rep Krause come up with next?” Burning books that he and a handful of parents find objectionable? “
Jonathan Friedman, director of free speech and education at PEN America, said Krause’s investigation highlights books on race and gender and that lawmakers’ actions are an attempt to create a dissuasive effect on teaching and learning.
“Unfortunately, Krause follows the trend of elected officials to arm censorship and antagonize educators and librarians for political gain. It goes without saying that this discriminatory witch hunt must be abandoned,” Friedman said in a statement.
Tiffany Jewell, whose book, “This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work” was included in Krauser’s list, said she believed children should have access to information and that school is the perfect place to learn about complex issues like race and identity.
“Every child deserves to feel empowered to know who they are and to know their story. So often adults think that children and young people are not ready to do this work or hear about it, but reality and truth is they ‘are more than ready because they see the world as it is and so much more clearly, ”Jewell said.
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