Students have had access to both CCISD’s library and the offerings of the Harris County Public Library through a specific app since January 2020, Superintendent Eric Williams said. One of the books that was accessible in the app via the HCPL sparked debate among parents who felt the material was not age-appropriate.
CCISD parent Patricia Bussman expressed her concerns about the book “Sex is a Funny Word” during public comment at the Oct. 26 board of trustees meeting. Since then, the district has started working on an online form to send to parents, where they will be able to indicate whether or not they would like their child to have access to HCPL materials, Williams said.
“We believe education is a partnership with parents,” he said during his district update, adding CCISD officials realize the importance of allowing parents to control access to public library materials. “Upon further review, our staff determined that book and a few others should have been placed in an older age category.”
Elementary student access to the HCPL side of the app was promptly turned off once administrators were alerted of the issue, he said. CCISD’s digital library is separate from HCPL’s, although both are accessed on the same app; access is categorized by elementary, middle and high school.
Mark Callahan, who spoke during the meeting’s public comment portion of the meeting, equated the district’s actions regarding the book with “burning the bodies after the crime had been committed.”
“Rest assured that whether you were either complicit or simply asleep at the wheel when our children were exposed to this smut, there is an army of concerned parents doing a deep dive into all things literature-related in CCISD,” he said regarding “Sex is a Funny Word” in particular. “I want you to know you’ve been put on notice.”
Board President Jay Cunningham applauded the parent who alerted the district of the issue, which he said was related to access. Since the app allows open access to all HCPL books, the district will assess its policies related to individual titles, he said after public comment concluded.
“These are actually good problems to have, as it shows the willingness of the district to address our policy and procedures to ensure that all student and constituent concerns are addressed,” he said.
Author Cory Silverberg defines “Sex is a Funny Word” on his website as a children’s comic book that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations and gender identities. The book is meant to be a resource about bodies, gender and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10, according to Silverberg’s website. It is available as an ebook or book, with a copy on the shelf at Pasadena Central Library, as of Nov. 16, according to the HCPL database.