Keller ISD approves new content guidelines for library books

A week after removing dozens of previously challenged and approved books from library shelves, the Keller ISD school board has adopted new content guidelines.

KELLER, Texas — Keller ISD adopted new guidelines Monday evening to determine what is appropriate and what is not in school libraries.

At a sometimes noisy Keller ISD board meeting, members voted 4 to 2, with one abstaining from approving new guidelines on which to judge the suitability of library books.

The district came to national attention when 41 books that were challenged and then reviewed by committees of parents and community members and ultimately approved for use were pulled from shelves again the day before the new school year began.

Many books include themes of sexuality.

More than 45 people addressed the council on Monday evening, with the majority disagreeing with the council’s policies on books.

Cameron Munn, a senior at Keller High School, told the board that he was openly gay and that as a middle school student struggling to understand his sexuality, reading books with characters like him made him feel “seen”. for the first time.

“The fact is that marginalized students at Keller ISD feel attacked by the school board,” he said. “What you all don’t seem to understand is that this grassroots censorship is about more than politics, it’s about lives.”

Parents and community members who spoke out in favor of a stricter policy on book content said it was the right of parents to decide what their children should read about gender and sexuality.

“It’s my space to teach my child about sexuality and that there are two genders,” said one mother. “This is my space to teach them that they are wonderfully and beautifully made in the image of God. This is my space to block them from pornography.

The district policy passed Monday night lists the following themes on which content will be judged: profanity, kissing, horror, violence, bullying, underage drug or alcohol or tobacco use, and adult drug use, as well as the glorification of suicide, self-harm or mental illness; descriptions of non-sexual nudity; sexually explicit behavior or sexual abuse; illustrations or descriptions of naked body parts; passionate or prolonged kisses; detailed sex scenes.

Then these themes will be judged on whether they are widespread, common or minimal.

“It’s hard for me,” said board member Ruthie Keyes, who said defining widespread, common, minimal is too subjective.

She said educators who reviewed the guidelines said they would likely have to remove two-thirds of books from their shelves.

“That’s a lot,” she said.

RELATED: North Texas School District Pulls Books From Libraries for Revising, Including Bible and ‘Anne Frank’s Diary’ Adaptation

The new content policy also states that material that has been challenged and removed can be reconsidered for reinstatement after 10 years, but material that is challenged and left in the library can be reconsidered after only one year.

In a statement released ahead of Monday evening’s meeting and then read aloud at the start of the meeting, school board chairman Charles Randklev said, “Keller ISD’s new board has acted decisively to protect children from pornographic material.”

“The new policy restores the voice of parents and educators,” he said, adding that Keller ISD “prioritizes a child’s innocence over adult policy.”

As Randklev read the statement, some members of the crowd cheered.

But others held signs that said ‘give back all the books’ or ‘it’s your fault’.

Keller ISD Superintendent Rick Westfall said moving books that had previously been approved was only temporary, until those books can be determined to meet the new guidelines.

“Books that have been challenged by community members as being inappropriate for schools should be removed from shelves and kept in a parental consent area until the challenge process is complete,” he said. wrote in a statement on the Keller ISD website. “Previously disputed books are also being moved to a parental consent area to determine if these books meet the new policy standards and guidelines that will soon be reviewed by the board.

School districts across the state continue to face challenges and library book audits that have become a priority for some Republican lawmakers who want to remove books about sex, gender or race.

In May of this year, Keller ISD was one of the districts where hundreds of thousands of dollars were dumped in fiery school board races.

As a result, three new candidates of conservative leanings sit on the board of directors.

Colin L. Johnson