The Conroe ISD board of trustees on May 14 agreed to remove several items from a biology textbook in its 2024-25 curriculum, but it retained several other items board members had objected to on topics such as COVID-19 and genetically modified organisms.

The sections can be “turned off” in the electronic textbooks and not included in the district’s curriculum, according to board discussion. The decision was intended to keep the book compliant with the State Board of Education’s Proclamation 2024, which outlines instructional materials adoption, according to board discussion.

"The printed copy of the book is still going to have all of these things in there," Superintendent Curtis Null said. "The electronic version of the book, we can turn these things off. When we create our curriculum maps, we will not be instructing our teachers to use any of the stricken activities or materials in their teaching. And we will still cover all of the [Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills]."

The framework

The board voted 4-3 in favor of the changes, with trustees Stacey Chase, Theresa Wagaman and Datren Williams opposed. An earlier version of the motion included several additional items, but that motion failed by a 3-4 vote.

The board approved all other recommended instructional materials and sections of the biology book.

Three items were singled out not to be included in the curriculum because they did not comply with SBOE requirements:
  • A section regarding primate evolution
  • An item with material such as a disproportionately large carbon footprint for the U.S., which could be considered "anti-American" or "anti-Texas," according to discussion at the meeting
  • A unit that does not include intelligent design but which publishers said will be included in a future edition of the book
Several others sections came up for discussion but were not included in the final vote. One was regarding the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, among other topics, and another pertained to the safety of genetically modified organisms, which trustee Tiffany Baumann Nelson said she believed should not be portrayed as beneficial. Another item Nelson proposed for removal was in a unit on chromosomes. The activity included information about how Y chromosomes showed that Thomas Jefferson had a child with an enslaved woman, which she said was not pertinent to biology study.

What they’re saying

“I personally just wanted to remove that one,” Nelson said, regarding the section that dealt with COVID-19 vaccines. “COVID[-19] is covered in the [Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills] ... so if we remove [that exercise] we don’t need to rewrite anything because it’s all included [in another unit].”

“This is, from where I sit, censorship at its finest,” Williams said. “We have folks spewing their individual personal beliefs and want to impose that on the masses; it’s as if we don’t trust our teachers to be able to decipher what to and not to teach."