After hours of public comments from students and teachers, and debate among board members regarding the legitimacy of the district’s book review process, the Conroe ISD board of trustees ultimately voted June 18 to uphold prior restrictions issued on 19 books by its own book review committee.

What happened

Reconsideration for the 19 book titles was requested by four people, including Andrea Yang, Erin Miller, Stevie Fox and CISD teacher Theresa Newman, who all spoke or issued statements at the meeting.

In the discussion, many speakers spoke about how the books were removed due to excerpts being read out loud. The appeals requested reconsideration committee members to read the books as a whole.

“I haven't read these books, and we asked them to implement something that I don't want to go back and say ‘You did it wrong,’” board President Skeeter Hubert said. “What I want to do is I want to go back and discuss the policy that we put in place.”

Prior to talking in front of the board, a book reconsideration committee included three parents representing College Park, Grand Oaks and The Woodlands high schools’ feeder zones; one junior high librarian; and instructional level staff, according to the district website.

“I saw no one on this list that directly interacts with secondary students except for one lone assistant principal, and the committee does not record those meetings, so those of us who appeal had no opportunity to hear their discussion to offer clarification,” Fox said.

What they’re saying

Although the board ultimately voted 5-2 to maintain restrictions on all 19 books, concerns with the district’s book removal policy were highlighted in the discussion between board members.

“Through this process, I see some glaring issues that need to be addressed,” Hubert said, acknowledging he has not read the books himself.

“It’s obvious that our Education for All (EFA) changes that we took from Katy [ISD] have caused collateral damage, and we are seeing that. There is a probability that we will have to relook at our policy and make sure that we are disallowing our AP students the opportunity to read the books required to get ahead in their studying,” trustee Theresa Wagaman said.

“I don't think the damage is from the policy. I think we need to sit down and look at the procedure and add more librarians,” trustee Melissa Dungan said. “I think there is some room for improvement.”

The background

At a board meeting March 19, the board decided on a few ways to bring more transparency and faster updates to the reconsideration process.
  • Staff could add the reason for a book removal to the list on the website.
  • Establish a specific day each month for the list to be updated.
  • Give a 15-day period where a challenge can be submitted for a book.
  • Add instructions on how to challenge an informal review to the district's FAQ.
The 19 books requested for reconsideration at various levels of the district’s review process were:
  • "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison
  • "Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky
  • "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas
  • "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • "My Sister’s Keeper" by Jodi Picoult
  • "Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • "We Are the Ants" by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens
  • "Beloved" by Toni Morrison
  • "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi
  • "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley
  • "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • "Girl in Translation" by Jean Kwok
  • "I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter" by Erika L. Sanchez
  • "Salvage the Bones" by Jasmine Ward
  • "Sold" by Patricia McCormick
  • "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker
  • "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini
  • "The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead
What’s next

There is no timetable or plan in place for the board to discuss changing the EFA policies.