The library at Blanco Vista Elementary in San Marcos on Nov. 4, 2021. Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

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A North Texas school district appears to be the first to be investigated by the state education agency over whether it gave students access to books with “sexually explicit content,” according to a letter sent to the district that was obtained by the Dallas Morning News.

The Texas Education Agency will determine whether the 35,000-student Keller Independent School District, north of Fort Worth, correctly evaluated books permitted in its school libraries and whether or not this led to students having access to inappropriate content, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Officials from Keller ISD and the TEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Keller appears to be the first school district to be put under the state’s microscope reviewing how certain books are approved in public school libraries. This comes about a month after Gov. Greg Abbott asked the agency to investigate criminal activity related to “the availability of pornography” in public schools, saying that the agency should refer such instances “for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”

Abbott has also asked the agency, along with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the State Board of Education, to develop statewide standards preventing “obscene content in Texas public schools.”

In late October, parents in the school district pressured officials to remove a book from a high school library: “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe, a 239-page graphic novel depicting Kobabe’s journey of gender identity and sexual orientation. The book contains a few pages of explicit illustrations depicting oral sex, which outraged parents in the district.

“Gender Queer” has become a lightning rod both nationwide and in Texas among some parents and Republican officials who say they’re worried public schools are trying to radicalize students with progressive teachings and literature.

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, included Kobabe’s book in his inquiry into which books Texas schools have in their libraries. His list of 850 books included many about racism and sexuality.

While most school districts have ignored Krause’s inquiry, North East Independent School District in San Antonio is reviewing more than 400 books flagged by the Republican lawmaker, and Katy Independent School District near Houston has launched a broad review of its books and asked parents to report any vulgar material.

The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is the only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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