Police temporarily removed the graphic novel Flamer by Mike Curato from a Katy ISD high school before the start of school this year. A criminal complaint alleging the district was providing material harmful to minors is what prompted the removal.
The initial complaint on July 21 invoked Texas penal code 43.24. The code lays out the definition of minor and what the term “harmful material” means in a legal context. To be considered harmful, the material, first off, must be examined as a whole.
- Appeal to the prurient interest of a minor.
- Be patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors.
- Be utterly without redeeming social value for minors.
Flamer is an award-winning graphic novel that tells the story of Aiden Navarro “as he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.” This graphic novel is part of a trend of books targeted for relaying a story from one of the LGBTQ+ perspectives.
The book has already faced challenges in Katy ISD (an ISD that received national attention for cancelling an event with comics creator Jerry Craft in 2021). Last spring, after a challenge, the book was removed from the shelves and reviewed by a committee. Their final decision was to remove the graphic novel from the middle school libraries but retain it for all the high schools in the district.
Instead of moving for an appeal, filing a criminal charge demonstrates an effort to go around the system. The complainant stated, “Per Governor Abbott and the TEA, the book Flamer should have been removed from KISD library shelves but it still remains.” The statements of Governor Abbott have been used many times as intimidation for removing library materials. The complainant also mentioned bringing the filed police report to the Texas Rangers, a body that acts as the state-level bureau of investigation.
According to a local Twitter account, the book was returned to the school and is back on shelves after the complaint was considered unsubstantiated. The book was held for a limited time by police for processing. Recently, Flamer was also on a list of books removed in Keller, TX. These occurrences point to a troubling trend where books that have completed the review process are threatened by attempts to skirt or change policy.
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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!