Nov 8, 2022 - News

Grapevine student launches a banned-book club

Illustration of a stack of books with barbed wire wrapped around them.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A student at Grapevine High School started a club dedicated to reading some of the books his school district's board of trustees have banned.

Why it matters: Tommy Rogers, a 16-year-old junior, told WFAA that the "Challenging Themes Book Club" was a response to the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD's vote to remove several books from school libraries.

Flashback: In August, after hours of discussion from nearly 200 speakers, the GCISD board narrowly passed a new set of policies limiting how teachers talk about race, gender and sexuality, and which bathrooms transgender students can use.

  • The board also approved a policy stating that if a library book is challenged and removed, it won't be eligible for consideration again for at least 10 years.
  • Rogers was speaker 153 of 197 that night. As he spoke, he held a copy of "The Kite Runner" — one of the district's challenged books.
  • "You try and fit people in boxes they don't fit in because people who are different scare you," he told the board, per WFAA. "I don't care if you live in a world of ignorance, but don't force it on the next generation."

Zoom out: School districts across Texas — but especially in Tarrant County — have become the front line in a conservative culture war targeting how history is taught and which books are allowed in schools.

The intrigue: Rogers said school administrators met with him before approving his plan for the club.

Details: The club will meet twice a month after school hours on campus and read from a list of books Rogers curated. Many of the books include topics like sexual assault, racism and sexuality.

The other side: Members of the group GCISD Parents, which supports the recent policy changes, told WFAA that Rogers' club is "proof that the policy is performing as intended and that with parental consent, students are allowed access to books with controversial themes."

The bottom line: The kids are going to be alright.

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