Leander ISD review underway on 'inappropriate literature' in book clubs

Leander ISD officials announced the district would begin a literature review in November. (Courtesy Pexels)

Leander ISD officials announced the district would begin a literature review in November. (Courtesy Pexels)

Leander ISD is looking to create new policies to prohibit using "inappropriate" books in the district.

Following parents' concerns last year, district officials said a committee would begin a literature review process with teachers, parents and staff members to examine books allowed in high school book clubs. At recent board meetings, many parents have voiced concerns for the content in these books while other parents have voiced support for the diversity of book options in the student-choice book clubs.

So far, six books have been removed or will require additional support when read, according to reviews from a district committee. The district has stopped all student book club units until the 15 books in each unit are reviewed, Superintendent Bruce Gearing said in a March 8 statement. Two of eight units have been reviewed.

“After listening to the concerns from our community, our administrators are currently working on drafting verbiage for board policy prohibiting the purchase of inappropriate literature for the assigned students’ ages,” Gearing said in the release.

District staff and the school board will discuss “instructional materials selection and the local policy process” on March 25 at the board meeting, Gearing said. Parents can volunteer for the book review process by emailing Jennifer Collins, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, at [email protected]

How did the district pick these books?

The books in question were for English Language Arts student-choice book clubs, which are topic-based and are not required readings, LISD said. District spokesperson Matt Mitchell previously told Community Impact Newspaper the main themes of concern to parents were social justice and how physical contact is described in books.

In spring 2020, the district completed the high school language arts curriculum process adoption. The process was required ahead of the Texas Education Agency’s new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements to begin in fall 2020, Collins said at the Nov. 5 meeting. The TEKS requirements aimed to add diversity in genre, theme and author.

Parents, staff and community members reviewed the materials in early 2020, and the book selection process was completed mostly remotely through the pandemic in March, April and May. Collins said in November that the process had an over-reliance on online reviews.

Which books did the district remove?

The district has finished reviewing two of its eight book club units.

In the review of the English II graphic novels book club, three titles were removed, and one title will require additional counseling support, according to the review. “Kiss Number 8,” “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me” and “Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation” were removed. “Speak: The Graphic Novel” will require additional support.

In the English IV A Study of Community book club, two of the 15 titles will require counseling support, according to the review. “My Friend Dahmer” has conditional approval, but usage is paused pending additional collaboration and support from LISD counselors for bullying, mental illness and criminal content, the review said. “The Nowhere Girls” also requires support with sexual assault resources.

The full book list can be viewed here.
By Taylor Girtman
Taylor Girtman became the reporter for the Cedar Park-Leander edition in Feb. 2020.


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