At least five books were banned from Texas public and charter schools in the 2015-2016 school year, according to the annual report of banned and challenged books that was released by the state ACLU chapter this week.
Comics appeared in both categories. Drama by Raina Telgemeier, which was previously banned from an elementary school in the town of Chapel Hill in 2014, was this time removed from Kirbyville Junior High. Meanwhile, This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, which has run into trouble around the country due to its status as a Caldecott Honor Book, was relocated from the elementary to the high school level in McKinney Independent School District.
Finally, two volumes of the manga series Black Butler by Yana Toboso were reportedly destroyed by a third party, presumably a parent or student, who objected to “satanic and occult themes” in the books at Harmony School of Advancement, a public charter school in Houston. The school reported it was reimbursed for the destroyed books but did not clarify whether they were replaced with new copies.
As it has done every year since 2002, the ACLU of Texas sent Freedom of Information Act requests for any information on book challenges or bans to every public school in the state, but only 53% responded as required by law. Given the low response rate, there likely were more challenges not captured in the report. Overall, the ACLU collected reports of 13 challenges in 12 schools, and five of the challenged books ultimately were banned from their respective schools for the cited reasons below:
- Malcolm X By Any Means Necessary by Walter Dean Myers
Blum ISD, Blum High School: Offensive to religious sensitivities; politically, racially, or socially offensive
- The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
Poth ISD, Poth Junior High: Violence or horror; offensive to religious sensitivities
- The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
Poth ISD, Poth Junior High: Violence or horror
- Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Kirbyville CISD, Kirbyville Junior High: Politically, racially, or socially offensive
- World Geography textbook from McGraw-Hill
Beaumont ISD, Pearland High School: Describes slaves as “workers” and “immigrants”
Eight more works (including one poem) were challenged, but in most cases the item was retained or a resolution was found that satisfied the complainant while preserving access for other students:
- I Survived (the Attacks of September 11, 2001) by Lauren Tarshis
New Braunfels ISD, Memorial Elementary School: Objected to use of the word “terrorist”
Resolution: Alternate assignment offered
- Homeroom Diaries by James Patterson
Northside ISD, secondary level: Profanity
Resolution: Use restricted
- This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
McKinney ISD, Webb Elementary: Age-inappropriate
Resolution: Transferred to high schools
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
Orenda Charter School District, Gateway College Preparatory School: Violence or horror; offensive to religious sensitivities
- “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes
Montgomery ISD, Montgomery Junior High: Profanity; sexual content or nudity; violence or horror; drugs or alcohol
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Taylor ISD, Taylor Middle School: Politically, racially, or socially offensive
- Pugdog by Andrea U’ren
Northwest ISD, Beck Elementary School: Politically, racially, or socially offensive; about gender confusion or identity; “promotes crossdressing”
- Black Butler #5 and 6 by Yana Toboso
Harmony ISD, Harmony School of Advancement: Offensive to religious sensitivities; witchcraft, satanic, and occult themes
Resolution: “Destroyed by third party”; replacement status unknown
Check out the full report for the 2015-2016 school year, as well as those from previous years, here at the Texas ACLU’s website.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.