Local parents have taken to Cy-Fair ISD board meetings this school year to debate the value of certain content and language used in books available to children—including ones that cover issues such as race, homosexuality, religion and sexual assault.
In recent meetings, parents have called for increased parental input in the selection, approval and removal of books from district libraries in hopes of shielding their children from views they find in conflict with their values and beliefs.
Parents have called for the book “Flamer,” for example, to be removed from CFISD libraries due to obscene content. However, during the May 9 board meeting, local resident Jennifer Chenette said she believes such books can help students feel seen and heard.CFISD parent Monica Dean requested a system to alert parents when their child checks out a book from the library that would allow the parent to accept, reject or request to review the content.
“This is not about restricting books; it’s about giving parents more rights in granting permission to what their student is checking out,” Dean said at the May 9 meeting.
Book review process
The State Board of Education released guidance for districts to maximize transparency in book selections and limit potential exposure to inappropriate materials on April 11, after receiving a directive from Gov. Greg Abbott.
CFISD has book selection and removal procedures in place to ensure students can access materials relevant to their studies or for personal reading pleasure without exposure to materials that lack social redeeming values, according to Chief Academic Officer Linda Macias.
The district has a certified librarian on every campus, where students have access to about 1.59 million physical and digital books.
Macias said library collections vary across the district because content is selected to fit the needs of students at each campus, but district officials want collections to “[enrich] the quality and diversity of thought and expression.”
At the same time, parents can access campus library catalogs online and request their child not be allowed to check out certain genres or books they deem inappropriate, Macias said. For books read in English Language Arts classes, parents are also notified two weeks ahead of the start of a new unit and can opt for alternative selections.
Officials said the district has removed nine books that were either brought to its attention by other districts or included in a list of 850 books state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, said in an October letter could “make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.”
Macias said library collections at the district level are carefully compiled with considerations for reading levels, curriculum enrichment and promoting reading engagement.
“Within the broad scope of literature that we provide to students, there may be scenes in which a character’s actions or motives generate conflicting opinions,” Macias said. “Our intent is never to condone this behavior but rather to provide the opportunity to learn from diverse experiences in life.”
Cy-Fair resident Julie Rix said she and her peers would like to see their values prioritized in books and curriculum within the district.
“God, family, country is the moral majority,” Rix said. “We need the fear of God amongst us because we are all in a position of responsibility and will be held accountable to God for the manner in which we disciple the next generation.”
However, members of the Cy-Fair Civic Alliance have vocally supported the provision of books with diverse perspectives. The group is described as “a nonpartisan organization ... committed to improving civic health and promoting civic harmony within Cy-Fair ISD,” according to its Facebook page.
In April, members delivered flowers and treats to district librarians to “counteract the vitriol” from individuals requesting books be removed, according to member Lesley Guilmart, who is also an instructional coach at Cy-Fair High School.
Cristina Mejia is a member of the CFCA and an elementary school parent. She said she believes library content should be age appropriate and has found this to be true in CFISD.
“I know that not everybody [or every librarian] is going to have the same opinions on different things, but acknowledging that they are the experts in the field, we can have differing opinions, and that’s where we follow the process,” Mejia said.