Over a year into the process, district leadership is one step closer to updating Cy-Fair ISD’s library materials policy.

The board of trustees continued discussing the policy at the June 17 meeting amid calls for transparency from parents. They will take another vote to finalize it in August.

“[The library policy] protects from obscene and pervasively vulgar materials that shock the conscience of the Cy-Fair community. That’s a Supreme Court standard. That’s what parents in this community are looking for this district to take leadership on,” trustee Justin Ray said.

This effort comes after district administration opted to eliminate half of CFISD’s librarian positions, and the board approved censoring chapters from science textbooks that discuss climate change and vaccines, among other topics included in the state’s curriculum standards.
Trustees Lucas Scanlon, Justin Ray and Scott Henry participate in the June 17 board meeting. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact)
Trustees Lucas Scanlon, Justin Ray and Scott Henry participate in the June 17 board meeting. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact)
What’s changing?

Under the revised policy, the board of trustees would have ultimate authority over approving books librarians want to add to their collections. CFISD General Counsel Marney Collins Sims said at the June 13 work session this language is consistent with the law and was added to clear up confusion.

Campus librarians currently choose books to add to their collections, and campus principals approve the books before purchasing them. The principal sign-off is a fairly new part of the process—it was added with last year’s policy changes, Chief Academic Officer Linda Macias said June 17.

Additionally, proposed policy revisions included the requirement that lists of new books librarians want to purchase for their collections must be posted online for public review 30 days before acquisition.

Five days before that posting, the superintendent and board of trustees would get to preview those lists. This provision is not required by state law but was put in place by the board policy review committee, Sims said. Trustees Todd LeCompte, Lucas Scanlon and Scott Henry make up this committee, according to the district website.

Trustee Julie Hinaman expressed concerns about the policy updates, saying this will add “more bureaucracy” to a system that’s already working for the district. She also implied board members could abuse the power of getting to “prescreen” book lists before the public does.

Hinaman requested several clarifications be added to the policy before final approval, including:
  • No board member would be able to remove library materials during the five-day period before the lists are published publicly.
  • If a board member has concerns about a certain book, they must read the material in full and submit the same form parents and community members use to go through the reconsideration process.
  • Acquisition lists would be presented to the board for approval at the first board meeting following the 30-day posting period. Board members would not be able to request materials be removed at the meeting.
  • Following reconsideration based on a board member’s request, the board must agree to remove that book if the reconsideration committee decides to remove it.
  • No library books would be removed from the acquisition lists based solely on ideas contained in the material, or the personal background of the author or characters.
  • Board members’ spouses and family members would not be eligible to serve on a formal reconsideration committee for new or existing materials in the library collection.
The June 17 vote on the first reading of the policy revisions passed 6-1 with Hinaman opposed. At the next scheduled board meeting in August, the board will revisit the vote on second reading for final approval.

Sims said the board policy review committee will review Hinaman’s recommendations at their next meeting in July and consider incorporating those clarifications into the policy before final approval. Board policy review committee meetings are not open to the public.

The background

The district convened a library materials committee in spring 2023 including parents, students, librarians and campus administrators. Scanlon’s wife, Bethany Scanlon, and LeCompte, who was not yet elected to the board at the time, both served on this committee.

Sims said this team clarified items in the library policy that went into effect in January 2023. Participants were told their revisions would be recommended to the board, she said June 13; however, the board would make the ultimate decision about the policy.

The committee also incorporated House Bill 900 into the policy once Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law in June 2023. This bill defined “sexually explicit” and “sexually relevant” material, and required library material vendors to assign content ratings for such books, according to the Texas Library Association.

Once the library materials committee had input on the policy, the board policy review committee continued revisions before the board began their discussions June 13.

“Ultimately, the [library materials] committee didn’t develop the policy because the committee can’t develop the policy. The committee can develop recommendations that we coalesce around the best consensus from,” Sims said. “I mean, it was a big committee with a lot of viewpoints, and we worked really hard to get as much consensus [as we could].”
Trustees Natalie Blasingame, Christine Kalmbach and Julie Hinaman participate in the June 17 meeting. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact)
Trustees Natalie Blasingame, Christine Kalmbach and Julie Hinaman participate in the June 17 meeting. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact)
What they’re saying

Many parents used the public comment portion of the June 17 meeting to share their displeasure with the proposed policy revisions.

“The current proposal would further burden our dwindling librarians and teachers, and would delay and make much more cumbersome the process of adding new library materials,” CFISD parent Tara Cummings said. “Worst of all, the proposed policy would place the final decision for library materials in the hands of the board. So much for parents’ rights.”

Parents also said district librarians—who are required to have master’s degrees—should be trusted to choose books best suited for students.

At the June 13 work session, Sims said trust was not this issue.

“Yes, we trust the librarians, and that’s the reason we have the parameters in place. But they’re not infallible. None of us are infallible. Only one perfect person, and he got nailed to a cross,” she said.

In case you missed it

Trustee Natalie Blasingame said of the 13 books requested for reconsideration in 2022-23, none were removed. In the middle of the June 13 work session, she questioned the appropriateness of two of those books—"The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel” by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault, and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

“I would have sent it to you by email, but I’m concerned about if I would send this to you, what would happen. ... I was going to read it, but it’s that vulgar that I’m not sure that that’s appropriate to be read online,” Blasingame said to Sims.

Macias said excerpts from “The Bluest Eye” have appeared on AP exams, which the district does not control. While those books may not necessarily be required reading in classes, many books from the AP list can be found in CFISD high school libraries.

When it comes to required reading as part of class instruction, parents can always request alternative options if they aren’t comfortable with assigned reading, officials said.

Zooming out

The EveryLibrary Institute and Book Riot surveyed parents in December on school library access and parental involvement, and found:
  • 95% believe every school should have a school librarian.
  • 81% of parents reported they don’t know how school librarians choose books for their collection, but 80% said they trust school librarians to select age-appropriate books for students.
  • 60% said they believe school libraries should restrict access to books by age or require parental permission to check out a book.
  • 56% reported book banning is an issue when they vote.
  • 32% said they would request a book be banned from their school library if it makes them or their child uncomfortable.
  • 86% believe children’s book characters should be diverse and reflect many experiences.
  • 63% said bans infringe on their rights as parents, and 54% believe book bans harm children.
  • 70% believe they’re responsible for what their child reads, and 60% believe children have the right to choose their reading materials.
  • 67% said they use parental blocks or filters on their child's devices.