KATY, Texas — The Katy ISD board meeting on Monday was packed with community members concerned about the future of books in classrooms and libraries.
Out of the 390,000 titles, the district has pulled 10 books considered “pervasively vulgar”, although a definition of what that means hasn’t been made clear.
Parents of Katy ISD students can sign up to be notified about what their kids check out from the library. However, some parents, like Regina Johnson, think more should be done to restrict what books are available to students.
“I, along with other parents, are against sexually explicit, graphic, harmful material placed in the hands of all minors,” Regina Johnson said.
On the other side, mom and licensed professional counselor Anne Russey says the banned books aren’t vulgar but have lessons to teach. She thinks the LGBTQ+ and minority communities are being targeted.
“They are not pornographic books,” Russey said, “They are not written with the intent of arousing anybody… they are written to tell a story.”
Cinco Ranch High School senior Logan McLean agrees.
“Those people, who are struggling with their identities and want to see themselves represented in the books that they read, they deserve to have that option in their school libraries,” Logan McClean said.
In line with Texas law, the district allows parents to request a formal or informal review of any book. Then, a committee of Katy ISD educators, and in some reviews, parents, decide whether to ban or limit the book.
Book bans and challenges are on the rise nationwide. Last year, the American Library Association tracked 1,597 challenges, nearly four times higher than ever.
Abby Ramsey, who said she homeschools her children, said the district needs to remove more titles.
“Removing certain books from libraries, it’s about showing discretion, it’s respecting a community’s values,” Ramsey said.
Banning books is seen as political by many who oppose it, “sheltering them [students] from concepts about sexuality or gender identity isn’t going to change who they are,” said Russey.
But those who support bans tend to see them as protection.
“Regardless of political affiliation, gender, race or sexual preference, certain material is harmful, and it just doesn’t belong in the school,” said Ramsey.