Last week, Texas state representative Jared Patterson penned a letter to school superintendents across the state. The letter, signed by twenty-six fellow Republican representatives, called on the schools to sign an enclosed pledge. The pledge calls on school officials to “neither knowingly partner with, purchase from, nor associate with in any way a vendor who has supplied child pornography to public schools.”
As Patterson states in his letter, the goal is to use the Texas public school system and its “power in the market” to force vendors to adjust to their standards. On the surface, this pledge seems to be a no-brainer, but the sentiment in this letter is disingenuous. In his letter, Patterson specifically targets both Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe and “graphic materials” in general, highlighting the target that comics and graphic novels have become.
Patterson and his fellow representatives have decided the entire state needs to abide by their personal taste. They are continuing the trend to censor Gender Queer: A Memoir and LGBTQ material by misrepresenting it as pornographic and obscene. Patterson points out on his website that “out of 150 legislators, he has been in the top 10 most conservative based on his voting record for both of his terms.”
This pledge will affect publishers, distributors, and retailers and add another layer of pressure on already overloaded teachers and school librarians. The legislators are hoping to get their way through intimidation. The coupling of being incredibly unspecific about the criteria and naming an award-winning book that has been challenged and retained in libraries across the nation could create a cooling effect. This ban would likely affect vendors across the board except for the most conservative.
This pledge is another addition to the assaults schools in Texas have been weathering. The infamous list of 850 books by representative Krause that appeared late last year has already resulted in the removal of books across the state. The pledge is a clear scare tactic to control access to books and to impinge on the First Amendment rights of students in Texas.
On a brighter note, this week also marked the announcement of a new grassroots coalition from the Texas Library Association, Texans for the Right to Read. They are an additional ally as we continue monitoring and fighting book challenges and censorship in Texas and beyond.
CBLDF and its partners have been battling ongoing and organized attempts to censor comics and other books in schools and libraries. You can join the struggle by making a donation or reporting censorship today!