North East ISD administrators, at the school board's June 10 meeting, sought to assure trustees they are working to further enhance a process designed to keep age-inappropriate books out of campus libraries.

The overview

The NEISD school board, which has four recently elected members, requested a review of the district’s system for vetting library materials.

Several attendees of the board's May 13 meeting addressed trustees, complaining that NEISD school libraries held a number of books they described as having content of a sexual nature, or containing profanity or racial or sexually related slurs.

At the June 10 board meeting, NEISD administrators said the district has a way by which community members may formally express concern about specific library materials.

Zooming out

In recent years, community members in several Texas public school districts have organized to push school system leaders to better scrutinize campus library materials, and remove questionable books or change them to a more appropriate grade level.

Texas House Bill 900, passed by state lawmakers in 2023, requires school districts to use a rating system to vet and keep sexually explicit content out of campus libraries. But legal challenges to HB 900 have led to it not being officially enforced by the state.

While NEISD school libraries collectively have nearly 731,000 print and digital books, district administrators said they take seriously people’s complaints about materials they feel are age-inappropriate for students and remove books.

Esmeralda Muñoz, executive director of NEISD’s Learning Support Services office, addressed the board June 10. Muñoz said in November 2021, NEISD started developing an opt-out resource for parents to limit their child’s access to certain materials.

Muñoz said district administrators have spent the last three years formulating their system for vetting books, removing questionable materials or moving certain content to a different school grade level.

According to NEISD officials, more than 29,000 books were evaluated during the 2023-24 school year, with 900-plus books being removed altogether. This figure includes the 16 books mentioned by those attendees who addressed the board on May 13.

What they’re saying

Superintendent Sean Maika said HB 900 was a key piece of legislation meant to protect students because it requires formal reviews and helps to ensure consistency of the evaluation of content.

Maika urged NEISD residents to be patient as the district further refines its vetting process. About 30,000 to 50,000 books are added to NEISD library collections every year.

“What we’re asking librarians to do here is a very heavy lift,” he added.

Going forward

Muñoz said NEISD administrators will keep talking with campus librarians and leaders about procedures and processes regarding ongoing reviews of school library content.

Muñoz also said the district will provide librarians additional time during monthly training sessions to discuss weeding of books.