Aug 24, 2022 - News

North Texas school district adopts strict policy on books and pronouns

Illustration of a stack of books with barbed wire wrapped around them.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

After hours of discussion from nearly 200 speakers, the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD board narrowly passed a new set of policies limiting how teachers talk about race, gender and sexuality, and which bathrooms transgender students can use.

Why it matters: School districts across Texas — but especially in Tarrant County — have become the front line in a conservative culture war targeting how history is taught, which books are allowed in schools and the rights of trans students.

Details: In addition to prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory, the new policy includes restrictions on library books, eliminates equity audits and allows teachers to reject a student's pronouns — even if a parent asks.

  • Under the new policy, if a library book is challenged and removed, it won't be eligible for consideration again for at least 10 years.
  • The ACLU of Texas said the new policies threaten First Amendment rights and could have a chilling effect on the classroom.

Flashback: Nearby Southlake's Carroll ISD has battled for several years over how teachers can talk about race, including a new discussion over whether a middle school named for the grandson of a slave who learned to read at age 98 and wrote a book at 103 will be able to teach that book in class.

  • Keller school district recently removed 41 books, including the bible.
  • Grapevine-Colleyville also canceled its annual book fair.

The intrigue: Several of the Grapevine-Colleyville board members in support of the new policies were elected this spring, backed by Patriot Mobile, a local group that spent half a million dollars on 11 conservative school board campaigns.

Between the lines: Many of the speakers supporting the new policies repeated the language of national conservative media that suggests, without evidence, that teachers who mention sexuality are "grooming" students.

What they're saying: GCISD board member Shannon Braun, sister of "Fixer Upper" star Chip Gaines, told her Facebook followers that the new policies end the "social, cultural, and political agendas that have plagued our district classrooms."

  • Board President Casey Ford said the new policies "are a reflection of Texas law and community values."
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