After closing libraries for two weeks, Fort Worth ISD officials will review about 120 books because of a new state law.
The list of books was selected to determine whether they are developmentally appropriate for students. A committee of master-certified librarians will review them, spokesperson Cesar Padilla said in an email. Fort Worth ISD reopened its libraries Aug. 28.
Books included in the list are the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin, “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, “Push” by Sapphire and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe.
Currently, all books under review are not available to students, Padilla said.
Another review will occur in 2024 because of House Bill 900. The new state law requires school districts to remove sexually explicit books from libraries and require parental consent before allowing students to check out some with sexual references.
The State Board of Education will consider new standards for acquiring books. Booksellers will be required to provide a list of materials they consider sexually explicit to the Texas Education Agency.
Starting Jan. 1, 2025, school districts will have to review the new lists and post the bookseller-rated sexually relevant materials in their libraries on their website.
“Sexually relevant material” refers to a written description, photo, video or audio that describes or portrays sexual conduct.
Under the new law, “sexually explicit material” refers to a written description, image, video or audio that describes or portrays sexual conduct in a patently offensive way. Patently offensive is a term used in U.S. law regarding obscenity under the First Amendment.
In both instances, the law excludes materials directly related to the required curriculum.
At an Aug. 22 school board meeting, residents discussed the library closures.
Kenya Alu, executive director of Tarrant County’s chapter of Citizens Defending Freedom, said if parents want their children to read the books on the list, they can go to the public library. School is not the place for those books, she said.
“To those who label us as ‘book banners,’ let me be clear: We’re not for banning books — we’re for protecting children,” Alu said.
However, Marsha R. West, an author and former school board member, said she wants to defend the freedom to read. If parents want to oppose books, they should fill out an online form that asks them if they have read the material themselves, West said.
“No one parent, or 20 parents, should get to veto a book for another parent’s child,” she said.
Policies are in place for parents concerned about which books are available to their children. They can call their campus to restrict books to which their child has access. District residents can also file a formal complaint if they do not feel like a book should be in a Fort Worth ISD library.
Dang Le is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.