Sep 20, 2023 - News

Katy ISD bans more books as Texas leads nation in ban attempts

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

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Texas saw the most attempts to restrict or ban books of any state in the country in 2022, according to a recent report from the American Library Association.

Driving the news: There were 93 attempts to restrict access to 2,349 book titles in Texas last year.

  • That's nearly double the total in the second-highest state, Pennsylvania, which had 56 attempts on 302 titles.

The latest: Katy ISD has banned 14 additional books so far this school year after the district expanded the terms under which a book could be pulled for review, adding "nudity" to the definition of inappropriate material. Katy ISD had banned 16 books since 2021, before the new policy.

  • The list of newly banned books includes titles for elementary school students — like Dr. Seuss' "Wacky Wednesday," Robert Munsch's "The Paper Bag Princess" and "No, David!" by David Shannon.
  • The district did not respond to a request for comment as to why these books were removed.

Why it matters: Before 2020, most challenges to library books were brought by a single parent regarding a certain book, the association reports. But it estimates 90% of book challenges in 2022 were to multiple titles.

The big picture: This is evidence, the association said, of a "growing, well-organized conservative" movement that is broadly distributing lists to supporters to file mass challenges.

What they're saying: Texas Library Association executive director Shirley Robinson told Axios that censorship is not new, but the challenges in the past two years are "unprecedented."

  • "Parents have the right to control what their children read, but they do not have the right to decide what every child can read. While no book is right for everyone, one book can be the perfect book for someone," she said.

The other side: "It's not that we're banning books, it's that we're just trying to get the sexually explicit content out of public education," Coltin Foster, a Lubbock resident advocating for certain book removals, told EverythingLubbock.

What we're watching: A new law that passed the Texas Legislature in April, House Bill 900, aims to ban "sexually explicit" books from school libraries and require vendors to assign ratings to books based on depictions or references to sex.

  • Two Texas bookstores — Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston and BookPeople in Austin — and three national bookseller associations are suing to stop the law. A judge blocked it from going into effect in the meantime.

Meanwhile, some school districts, like Conroe ISD — which banned 59 books last school year, the most among greater Houston area districts — continue to review works brought to their attention by parents and community members.

  • "Any book the district believes may fall into one of the HB 900 categories is removed from circulation," a district spokesman said.

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