Leander ISD removes books, graphic novels from classroom libraries

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students at Leander Independent School District may notice certain book selections have disappeared from their classroom libraries.

The changes come after the district got rid of nearly a dozen books and graphic novels.

The concerns about some books came up a year ago at a district board meeting. Parents were worried about sexual content kids had access to in the book clubs.

Teachers, librarians, administrators and vendors normally participate in a book review process. But due to the pandemic, the district says much of the material being approved was based on online book reviews.

After the review, 11 books were removed. Several are graphic novels which include titles like “V for Vendetta,” “Y: The Last Man” and “The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel.”

Leander ISD’s list of books that won’t be available to high school students in book clubs or libraries and some that were reinstated after a review.

The books and graphic novels will still be available in the school libraries and the digital library.

Dr. Angela M. Ward, an educator and parent, said as a former teacher she knows that arguments over curriculum are not new. However, she said it “rarely” rises to the level of legislative conversations, as it has within the last year.

“Of course these conversations are going to come to school, because schools impact every aspect of life,” Ward said. “…our students are impacted by the adults’ ability to be able to hear each other, understand the different perspectives that come to us regarding how we see the world and how we experience the world.”

Ward said she finds this recent “craze” of removing certain books from school libraries to be troubling because it takes away the ability for teachers to make individual assessments based on their students needs, as well as having productive conversations with parents when a conflict does arise.

“As teachers, we do our best to make sure that as many points of view as possible are made available to students,” she said. “There’s an assumption that teachers don’t even think about these things. But trust me, especially as early as elementary school, we’re really trying to make sure that we are partnering with parents.”

As a former teacher, Ward said she fears their voices are being left out of these conversations dictating what content can and cannot be on school campuses.

“Often it’s superintendents, its executive leaders who have been out of the classroom so long and have not spent enough time face-to-face with teachers or students to really understand on the ground what’s happening in the classrooms,” she said.

Ward said it can also put added pressure on educators, who already have a lot on their plate from navigating teaching during a pandemic.

“I don’t even know if I can do my job because I’m looking over my shoulder wondering if I’m going to end up on the six o’clock news because someone has a problem with the book that I may have sitting on my shelf that I may be reading myself, and they’re thinking I’m indoctrinating children,” she said.

Gov. Greg Abbott called for school districts to review books he called “clearly pornographic” or “extremely inappropriate.”

A Leander ISD spokesperson said this district’s decision to remove the books was not the result of a state House investigation into what books schools have on campuses. The district also says the subject matter was not the only element considered, but academic rigor and grade-level appropriateness were also taken into account.

You can find more information on the content of some of those books, here.

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