HOUSTON — Texas civil rights groups and education equity organizations are demanding that Granbury Independent School District (ISD) return 125 books removed from shelves and any additional books that were also disappeared.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU of Texas), American Civil Liberties Union, Big Thought, Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, Equality Texas, FReadom Fighters, IDRA (Intercultural Development Research Association), Texas Civil Rights Project, Texas Freedom Network, and Young Leaders, Strong City urged the school district to immediately reinstate all removed books and revert to prior policy, in a letter sent Monday to the ISD’s board members and superintendent.
In the letter, the groups also urged the district to publicly affirm its commitment to LGBTQ+ and racial inclusivity and to ensure students learn the history of racism. Granbury ISD's book removals are in violation of the First Amendment, the Texas Constitution, and Granbury ISD's own policy. The First Amendment protects student access to a wide range of ideas in school libraries, including ideas that are unpopular.
The district began removing books from shelves earlier this year after a school board trustee inquired with the superintendent about eight books related to LGBTQ+ inclusion in Granbury ISD libraries. The district’s move also occurred after Rep. Matt Krause requested information on 850 books in school libraries. Many of the books on this list—among the initial 125 removed by the district—deal with the history of racism, racial inclusivity, and LGBTQ+ inclusivity, particularly gender identity. Removed books include the National Book Award-winning “Stamped from the Beginning,” by Ibram X. Kendi; “In Our Mothers’ House,” a picture book about a family with two moms, by Patricia Polacco; and “Class Act,” a graphic novel about a Black student who feels excluded at school, by Jerry Craft. At least some of the books remain off the shelves.
Additionally, Granbury ISD also started removing books from the library at the high school without any public acknowledgment. The district deleted such books from the library catalog and removed Granbury ISD markings as they are thrown away quietly.
The following quote can be attributed to Kate Huddleston, staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas:
“Granbury ISD’s book removals, including targeting books about LGBTQ+ and racial inclusivity and the history of racism, are plainly a violation of the First Amendment. Even though some books have been returned to the shelves, the removals for more than a month have sent a message to Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ students that their identities and experiences are not valued by Granbury ISD. Granbury ISD must not only return all books to the shelves but also take steps to ensure that Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ students have a sense of belonging in the district and that all students know that the district is committed to teaching the history of racism.”
The following quote can be attributed to Travis Fife, legal fellow, Texas Civil Rights Project:
“The blatant censorship and viewpoint discrimination occurring in Granbury ISD is representative of the delegitimization of Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ students’ perspectives occurring across the state. Granbury ISD’s book review and removal process has taken away books that foster a sense of belonging and inclusion amongst marginalized students. Granbury ISD must return these books to the shelves and work to ensure that Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ students feel supported in an incredibly difficult and tumultuous time for young people, especially for our most vulnerable students.”
The following quote can be attributed to Celina Moreno, President & CEO, Intercultural Development Research Association:
“All students should be supported in their academic and social-emotional growth and be able to access books that reflect and affirm their lived experiences. Granbury ISD’s book ban targets Black and LGBTQ+ students and violates the First Amendment rights of all students in the district.”
The following quote can be attributed to Val Benavidez, president, Texas Freedom Network:
“Book bans and censorship campaigns are a betrayal of our shared goal of offering Texas students a complete and truthful education. Our schools, like our state, are diverse, and they include students who are Black, brown, and LGBTQ+. We must ensure all students have access to books that reflect their experiences and offer an honest accounting of our history. The Granbury ISD's sweeping and rushed exclusion of certain books fails our students. But district administrators can correct their mistake by returning those books, as soon as possible, to the school library shelves where they belong.”
The following quote can be attributed to Amber Sims, CEO, Young Leaders Strong City:
The removal of books related to the experiences and histories of Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities, sets a dangerous precedent. Granbury ISD and other school districts cannot continue to blatantly disregard the constitutional rights of students to access readings that accurately reflect experiences of race, racism, gender, and LGBTQ+ communities. Our communities must work hard to resist attempts locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally to rewrite our histories and exclude all stories. The eyes of America are upon Texas–our future depends on it.
The following quote can be attributed to Carolyn Foote, spokesperson, FReadom Fighters:
“Granbury ISD has a district policy regarding the selection and review process for library books which should be followed. The Supreme Court outlines protection for student First Amendment rights in libraries, which it describes as places of voluntary inquiry. Each student has the choice to select the book that is appropriate for them and their family. To remove books with LGBTQ themes or content about race runs counter to those student First Amendment rights and exclude students and their families. Libraries are meant to serve ALL students in the school community and district selection policies are designed to protect all. We encourage every Texas school district to support access for ALL students in their school libraries.”
The following quote can be attributed to Maggie Stern, Children’s Defense Fund-Texas:
“School is a place where children of all backgrounds come together to learn from the past, understand the present, and prepare to solve the challenges of the future. Censoring books and silencing conversations hurts every Texas student as they seek to learn and develop empathy while sending the harmful message to Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ students that their stories do not belong in the classroom. We urge Granbury ISD and all Texas school districts facing these politicized attacks to stand with students, return the removed books to the shelves, and commit to creating an environment where all students are free to learn.”
The following quote can be attributed to Byron Sanders, president and CEO of Big Thought:
“If we are truly preparing youth with the tools to thrive in a 21st-century world and to solve the future's most pressing questions, then the first and most important equipment we can provide is truth. Knowledge of other perspectives and history, even uncomfortable or difficult parts of our story, have to be part of a young person's learning journey. This matters not just to this school district, but to public education throughout Texas and our nation.”
The following quote can be attributed to Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas:
“Schools are already grappling with the effects of a years-long global pandemic. Our top priority should be getting those kids back on track. All kids deserve to learn in an environment where they feel safe and included. But instead of focusing on the basics of education, some politicians are hell-bent on censoring the books that don’t fit their political agenda and spreading disinformation about schoolchildren - including children of color, transgender, and LGB+ kids. They’re banking on many Texans not being familiar with LGBTQ+ people’s lives to fill an information void with fear.
Fear-mongering about transgender and LGBTQ+ youth has already created an increased hostile school climate, measured through a significant uptick in reported cases of anti-LGBTQ+ victimization at school from both students and administrators. By removing books that appeared in a blatantly partisan letter, Granbury ISD is actively participating in dangerous political theater and falling short of their mission to “provide a rigorous academic curriculum along with enriching and individualized opportunities empowering every student to compete in an ever-changing world”
See the demand letter here.