Katy ISD cites "vulgar" language for removing young adult novel 'The Hate U Give' after parent complaint

Katy ISD has grabbed national headlines for its decision to remove a book from campus libraries after a parent complained to the board of trustees.

“The Hate U Give,” a young adult novel by Angie Thomas published this year, was taken out of school libraries and is under review by the district. The move was prompted after parent Anthony Downs told the KISD board of trustees Nov. 6 that his junior high-schooler checked out the book at school and brought it to his attention, unsure of whether he should read it.

“I read 13 pages and was very appalled,” Downs said, before reading a passage containing profanity and descriptions of drug use by teens. “We need to clean up our books before this becomes our destiny.”

According to KISD legal policy—which is based on state, federal statutes as well as judicial precedent—a Texas school district may not remove library materials “for the purpose of denying students access to ideas with which the district disagrees. A district may remove materials because they are pervasively vulgar or based solely upon the educational suitability of the books in question,” the policy states.

District spokesperson Maria DiPetta said the book was removed solely for its “pervasive vulgarity.” She stressed that the book has not been banned and that students may still bring a copy to school or even write reports on it.

According to the author’s website, “The Hate U Give” centers around 16-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses a police officer shooting her unarmed best friend that may be a drug dealer. The story describes how she navigates the after effects as well as living in a poverty-stricken community while attending prep school in a wealthy neighborhood.

Thomas told Teen Vogue in a March interview that, with the book, she also wanted to touch on the Black Lives Matter movement and create a protagonist that reflects modern-day experiences of African-American children.

DiPetta was not sure exactly when the novel was removed from district libraries but said it was likely one week after the Nov. 6 board meeting, at which point, a review committee was formed to assess the book.

A University of Texas student from Katy tweeted about the matter Nov. 17. Nearly two weeks later, the book's author retweeted the post and shared her disapproval of KISD’s decision.

“I’m saddened to hear that a school district in Texas banned #TheHateUGive, but I’m also empowered - you’re basically telling the kids of the Garden Heights [the main character’s neighborhood] of the world that their stories shouldn’t be told,” Thomas tweeted Nov. 30. “Well, I’m going to tell them even louder. Thanks for igniting the fire.”



Thomas also tweeted a link to a Change.com petition started by a Katy-area teen Dec. 5 to get the book put back into KISD libraries.



The petition, addressed to Hindt, had more than 860 signatures as of 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“It can bring about unity and understanding among the different races in your middle and high schools,” petition author Ny'shira Lundy said. “By placing the book back on the shelf it also gives the children a choice.”

National coverage of the matter prompted Superintendent Lance Hindt to issue a statement in response:

“A review of the book in question shows it to include pervasive vulgarity and racially insensitive language,” Hindt said. “As such, the book has been removed pending further review based solely on its pervasive vulgarity and not its substantive content or the viewpoint expressed.”

According to KISD local policy “district professional staff shall endeavor to maintain a balanced collection representing various views when selecting instructional resources on controversial issues,” with resources clarifying historical context and contemporary sources of intergroup tension.

That same policy also states that any parent can request a review of a district instructional material on the basis of “appropriateness.” But the National Coalition Against Censorship, which has already contacted KISD to offer guidance in its review process, challenged Hindt’s statement and said the personal beliefs of parents and community members must not infringe on the education of all students.

“The Hate U Give” debuted at the top of The New York Times’s Young Adult best-seller list and a movie adaptation is in production. Amandla Stenberg, Anthony Mackie, Regina Hall, Issa Rae and Common are among the cast, according to the Internet Movie Database.

The novel is now under review by a committee of district community members, including teachers, principals, librarians and parents. DiPetta said she was unsure whether students are invited to participate as well.

The last time KISD reviewed a book was for Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” which was temporarily removed after a parent complained about the novel’s themes on bullying. DiPetta said that review process lasted approximately a month.

DiPetta said that although students may not currently check out the book from district libraries, they can still bring it to school from elsewhere. But anyone hoping to get one from Harris or Fort Bend county libraries will have to wait: all available copies were checked out by Wednesday evening with upwards of 24 people on waiting lists.


MOST RECENT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its masking guidance, recommending all individuals to wear masks indoors in areas where transmission rates of COVID-19 are high. (Courtesy Texas Children's Hospital)
Texas' chief state epidemiologist urges the community to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise

Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise, particularly within unvaccinated populations

Tom Lambert, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, delivered a presentation at an August North Houston Association meeting about the plan's progress and future  (Courtesy METRO)
Metropolitan Transit Authority outlines light rail funding developments, COVID-19 ridership effect on METRONext

At a North Houston Association transportation committee meeting, METRO President Tom Lambert provided an update about the METRONext Moving Forward plan.

Chicking Out serves a variety of grilled chicken options. (Courtesy Chicking Out)
Chicking Out restaurant coming to The Woodlands; live-fire steakhouse coming to Inner Loop and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area, including the opening of a professional wrestling figure collector shop.

Q&A: Greg Smith, executive director of Fast Growth School Coalition

Greg Smith is the former superintendent of Clear Creek ISD and became executive director of Fast Growth School Coalition in December 2020. 

The eatery sells a variety of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, loaded fries and fruit lemonades. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Charleys Philly Steaks coming to Katy-area Walmart

The eatery sells a variety of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, loaded fries and fruit lemonades.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George announced the county was raising its coronavirus threat level from yellow to orange in a press conference Aug. 3. (Courtesy Fort Bend County)
Fort Bend County raises COVID-19 risk level as case numbers rise

In a press conference Aug. 3, Fort Bend County Judge KP George and other local officials encouraged residents to wear a mask and get vaccinated following an uptick in coronavirus cases.

 MVI Construction specializes in roofing as well as exterior and interior remodeling services. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MVI Construction opens in Katy

MVI Construction specializes in roofing as well as exterior and interior remodeling services.

In July 2021, Montgomery County recorded 367 cases of COVID-19 in children under 12, the second-most in 2021 and over five times higher than the number in June (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Montgomery County records increase in COVID-19 cases in children under 12

The county saw the second straight week of active cases increasing by over 1,000. COVID-19 hospitalization reached 12.4% of total hospital capacity.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Texas Medical Center coronavirus updates: Testing positivity rate continues to climb, surpassing 11%

Between July 26 and Aug. 1, an average of 11.5% of patients tested positive for COVID-19.

The building will house offices for several Precinct 4 entities, such as the justice of the peace. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Waller County Courthouse Annex now open

The building will house offices for several Precinct 4 entities, such as the justice of the peace.

Mahesh's Kitchen, an upscale Indian restaurant, is preparing to open in Sugar Land Town Square near the end of August. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Upscale Indian restaurant coming to Sugar Land; Freebirds Tex-Mex to open in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area, including that E-bikes will not be permitted on The Woodlands Township pathways.

student writing on paper
Texas Legislature allows parents to opt for students to repeat grade levels or courses

Senate Bill 1697 is effective for the 2021-22 school year.