There are fewer books on the shelves this year in the Keller International School District.
Keller ISD, in Texas, removed forty-one books before the start of school this year. Last Tuesday, the day before classes started, principals in the district received a letter from the executive director of curriculum and instruction asking all schools to remove each of the forty-one books challenged last school year by the end of the day.
Six of the books included on the list are graphic novels (Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, Gender Queer: A Memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, The Breakaways, Flamer, and This One Summer). These graphic novels, along with the complete list, follow the trend to remove or challenge works from minority voices. Even though some of these books, including Anne Frank’s Diary, have already gone through a review process — and been retained — they are all automatically being challenged a second time due to a board decision to rechallenge every book that was challenged last year. The rationale is that they will use a new collection policy that passed in April.
The new policy features several sections that weaken protections for the books in the library. One section gives the power of all book purchases to the board or vaguely “those whom they appoint.” The danger in this relies on a single person or group of people deciding to block the purchase of a book without any review committee or vote. It appears a single member can initiate and exclude a book from the order.
A separate section outlines how the buzzword “obscene” will affect the treatment of a book during the materials challenge process. Under the Keller ISD policy, when a book is challenged it is removed from the shelves until a committee review. When a book is alleged to have obscene material “a campus administrator and at least one District librarian shall review the specific content alleged to be “obscene” and determine if the material is “obscene”. If the content is found to be “obscene”, the library material shall be immediately removed.” This process seems to circumvent the typical review process leaving the decision in the hands of as few as two people.
This decision to challenge books a second time was bolstered by a recent turnover of the board, with the replacement of three of the seven members replaced. (The three new board members were all financed by the same PAC when running for the board.) This raises a third and perhaps more troubling issue; the ability of a school board to roll back the work of previous committees and an attempt to re-do or re-write the past.
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!