A proposal to further revise Cy-Fair ISD library policies is on the agenda for upcoming board meetings June 13 and June 17.

This measure comes just weeks after district administration decided to reduce the number of librarian positions districtwide by more than half ahead of the 2024-25 school year.

Additionally, the board voted 6-1 in May to omit several textbook chapters that covered “controversial” topics, such as climate change and COVID-19.

How we got here

The last major overhaul of CFISD’s library policies was approved in August 2022 and took effect in January 2023. It required educators to categorize all library content districtwide as juvenile, young adult or adult, and ensured parents had a say in the reading materials their children could access at school.

It also included information on the formal process of challenging books in the collection.

“It’s been real popular lately to talk about parents’ rights, but a lot of times when parents are talking about parents’ rights, they’re only talking about their rights. They’re not talking about other people’s rights,” said Mark Henry, CFISD's superintendent at the time, at a November 2022 board work session. “And I think we’ve set up a system where all parents have a right to help dictate what their children can read.”

Community Impact’s reporting at the time found only a handful of community members submitted the majority of requests for books to be removed from libraries—one of whom was trustee Lucas Scanlon’s wife, Bethany Scanlon.

Sorting out the details

The changes proposed this month include giving the board of trustees the ultimate responsibility of reviewing, selecting and reconsidering library books.

Policy amendments also state books requested by students will still be considered for inclusion. Teachers were removed from the list of individuals whose book recommendations would be considered for campus libraries, but parents and community members were added to that list.

Previously, the policy stated library material should not include “harmful” or “obscene” material. Proposed revisions include adding the requirement that any books containing “sexually relevant” content, according to the Texas Education Agency, would now require parent permission to reserve, check out or use outside of the library.

Additionally, several qualifications library material should meet were removed from the list of qualifications in the revisions, including the following considerations:
  • Books that demonstrate literary merit, quality, value and significance
  • Books that include accurate and authentic factual content from authoritative sources
  • Books that mirror selections found in other area Texas public school libraries
The policy also previously stated “the ultimate determination of appropriateness and access to library materials for a student remains with the student and that student’s parent.” Proposed revisions include removing “the student” from this decision.

Another update to the policy is ensuring any new library books being considered for purchase will be posted to the district’s website for at least 30 days before being included in the library. These lists must also be provided to the superintendent and board at least five days prior to being posted on the website.

Those opposed

Lesley Guilmart, president of the nonpartisan organization Cypress Families for Public Schools, said she does not support these proposed changes. She is also a CFISD parent and former employee of the district. Trustee Julie Hinaman is the only current board member this group endorsed in the most recent board election.

“The bottom line is that Cypress Families for Public Schools does not trust this board. The new policy seems to disregard the notion that literature should reflect the diversity of the community,” she said in an emailed statement. “Furthermore, it empowers the board to override the decisions of review committees. Whether it’s textbooks or literature, this board consistently anoints itself the sole decider of what’s appropriate over the knowledge of professional educators.”

What’s next

A board work session is scheduled for June 13, and the board could potentially take action on the proposal at the June 17 meeting. Members of the public can register to speak at either meeting if they have feedback on this agenda item for the board to consider before the vote.

Review the proposed policy changes here.