Alicia Royer, who has been teaching science at Cypress Falls High School for 30 years, said she was surprised to see Cy-Fair ISD Trustee Natalie Blasingame request the removal of 13 chapters from a list of 25 textbooks the board was tasked to approve in May.

After a brief discussion that did not include input from teachers, the board approved Blasingame’s request in a 6-1 vote on May 6.

Royer filed a formal complaint against the board for violating a policy that states the board should rely on district personnel to select instructional material. At a June 13 board work session, she requested the board either reinstate all chapters approved by CFISD educators or reconvene the science instructional materials committee to discuss the content before making a final decision.

Some context

Royer said she volunteered to serve on the instructional materials committee that would review and select 2024-25 textbooks from a list that had already been approved by the State Board of Education.

“She took on the additional task of reviewing the instructional materials under the assumption that her input would be respected and valued. However, she filed this complaint because she feels like this school board did the exact opposite,” Kaylan Dixon Smith, an attorney with the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, said at the June 13 board work session.

Blasingame’s May 6 request included removing three chapters from an earth systems textbook Royer and her team had thoroughly reviewed in a months-long process to identify the best books for students.

Royer said Blasingame’s reasons for wanting to remove these chapters included a discussion of depopulation—which refers to the removal or reduction of population—and the United Nations. However, she said the term “depopulation” isn’t found anywhere in the material. It does include three small paragraphs referencing the United Nations establishing an “intergovernmental panel on climate change to provide policymakers with regular assessments.”

Chief Academic Officer Linda Macias said per the textbook publishers’ policies, the district cannot remove excerpts from the books, but they can block students from accessing individual chapters.

Despite removing these chapters from students’ textbooks, CFISD educators will still teach concepts outlined in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the state curriculum standards, which students are tested on each year.

With the textbook approval on hold, Royer said some teachers have had to pause curriculum writing efforts for the 2024-25 school year, putting them behind schedule.

What they’re saying

As part of serving on the instructional materials committee, Royer said participants had to sign paperwork pledging to be neutral and keep their personal biases out of the review process. She did not hear concerns about topics covered during this process, she said.

At the work session, Blasingame highlighted a handful of areas that concerned her.

“‘Global warming will affect precipitation and snow melt; cause extreme weather; alter biodiversity; melt arctic sea ice and glaciers; add to the acidification of the oceans; and cause sea level rise,’” Blasingame read from the textbook June 13. “Is that true? Where’s the data? Where was the reference?”

Macias confirmed analyzing global ocean temperature data to predict the consequences is required teaching, per the TEKS.

Trustee Todd LeCompte questioned Royer about vaccine information being included in biology textbooks, which falls outside her purview since she teaches earth systems.

He implied vaccines cause autism, which has been refuted by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Lesley Guilmart, president of the nonpartisan nonprofit Cypress Families for Public Schools, said she believes censoring science textbooks will make it more difficult for students to engage in critical thinking.

“There's no ‘both sides’ to scientific data. The data is the data. ... Analysis and evaluation can enter the picture in science class when students are given the opportunity to consider whether or not rising temperatures and sea levels are a problem that should be addressed. Why don't six of the CFISD board members trust educators to facilitate this exploration?” she said in an emailed statement.

Christina Milan, a Pope Elementary School parent, said she was “appalled” to see the board vote to remove certain chapters from science and health textbooks.

“Censoring accurate, science-based content contradicts the very notion of high-quality instructional materials by limiting students’ exposure to diverse perspectives; we undermine their ability to engage critically with the world around them and rob them of the opportunity to grapple with complex issues, learn from history’s mistakes and contribute meaningfully to society,” Milan said at the work session.

Debra Hill, a former secondary science coordinator in CFISD, said the board disregarded the recommendations of science educators, and she believes their actions will deter science teachers from wanting to work in the district.

What else

In an email to the board, Hill detailed her concerns about restricting access to instructional materials. She also shared text messages and emails between Blasingame and Monica Dean—LeCompte’s campaign treasurer in the 2023 election—which she acquired through a public information request.

The messages show Blasingame asking Dean to call her “regarding textbooks” on May 3 and the following email from Dean on May 5:

“Attached is my review—it may not be much but it was a daunting task that I simply cannot complete in a few days since I am not familiar with how to navigate some of the online curriculum and compare it to the [Texas Education Agency]’s thousands of pages of supposed corrections! As was said by LM, most were grammatical not content so that’s concerning. Hope you consider the recommendations from input that many have provided to me on how to move forward.”
At the June 13 meeting, Blasingame said she read the proposed textbooks in full.

“I read every book. It took a month, and it was a lot of work,” she said.

What to expect

While the board has the authority to reject any textbook recommendations, Royer said she believes the subject matter experts should determine what resources will be used in classrooms.

“In a year when we are tasked with rewriting all of our curriculum because of the new TEKS we are required to implement, removing resources that would support us and have already been reviewed and tailored to our Texas curriculum makes absolutely no sense,” she said.

Macias said the district is working to find supplemental materials that can be used in the curriculum writing process as the textbooks previously used are now 10 years old.

Board President Scott Henry must provide a written response to Royer’s complaint by July 1.

Trustee Julie Hinaman, who was the only board member to vote against removing the textbook chapters in May, requested an amendment be added to the June 17 board meeting to approve the comprehensive materials as previously recommended.