Lt. Governor Dan Patrick wants Texas Senate to regulate school libraries and books

Texas lawmakers will jump into the fight against banned books and school libraries ahead of the next legislative session.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican seeking re-election, wants the Senate Education Committee to provide an update on public school policies regarding how titles end up in campus libraries as one of his interim charges. It’s one of about 80 items Patrick listed on Monday that he wants lawmakers to consider before the next legislative session.

He specifically asked members to recommend measures that would ensure that all library materials are age-appropriate and that parents have a way to search for them publicly.

Patrick’s accusation comes as the culture war over what students read continues to escalate. Conservative heads of state have repeatedly tried to brand headlines about gender and sexuality as “pornographic” and are urging districts to purge their buildings of them. Many books on the history of racism in America and stories centered on black characters or people of color are also reviewed.

A spokesperson for Patrick was not immediately available for comment. In a statement about the tentative charges he laid out, Patrick noted that they “reflected my priorities, the priorities Texans shared with me as I traveled the state and those of members of the Texas Senate.”

Education advocates have denounced statewide efforts to restrict access to the books as a partisan attack on various stories that help children learn more about themselves and those who are different from them.

Last month, a group of Texas House Republicans sent out a letter asking districts to pledge not to partner with booksellers who supply “pornographic material” to campuses.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who is also seeking re-election, previously ordered the State Board of Education and the Texas Library and Archives Commission to develop standards to prevent ‘pornography and other obscene material’ from being present in schools. .

Meanwhile, on Monday, the American Library Association released a new report highlighting an unprecedented number of attempted book bans. Most of the targeted books, the association found, were written by or about black or LGBT people.

Several school districts in North Texas have pulled books from libraries under pressure from state leaders.

It’s part of a troubling trend, warn civil rights groups.

The ACLU of Texas, for example, recently sent a letter to Granbury ISD leaders accusing them of violating students’ First Amendment rights by removing books from library shelves. Keller ISD is being investigated by the Texas Education Agency after a complaint about library books with “sexually explicit content.” They reviewed dozens of disputed books behind closed doors.

A coalition of organizations also recently launched a “Teach the Truth” campaign to oppose attempts to ban books in Texas.

Patrick also wants state senators to look at ways to give parents the opportunity “to exercise greater influence over their child’s learning environment.” It comes as Tory leaders have embraced ‘parents’ rights’ as a new rallying cry.

Abbott, for example, unveiled a declaration of parental rights at a campaign event in North Texas during the governor’s primary. Some political observers see it as a way to pit parents against teachers and turn education into a corner issue during election season.

Governor Greg Abbott signs a card referring to his declaration of parental rights to...

Patrick has also stepped up his attacks on tenure. He asked lawmakers to review academic tenure policies in the Texas higher education landscape and investigate proposals that have worked elsewhere to eliminate tenure.

Underlying these efforts is the conservative backlash against critical race theory.

The academic framework, which probes how policies and laws support systemic racism, has been co-opted by some Republican leaders and used to decry a wide range of schools’ diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation about pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab journalism.

Colin L. Johnson