A new PEN America study on book bans finds Texas leads the nation in restricting materials in schools with more than 800 books banned


Houston, Texas (KTRK) – new Study by PEN America, a free speech advocacy group, has found Texas leads the nation when it comes to banned books, with more than 800 titles registered in 22 school districts across the state. The researchers found that most of the books on the banned list were titles centered on race, racism, abortion, and LGBTQ+ issues.

“What we are seeing is really unprecedented in our organization’s recent memory and banning books is something we have been working on for many decades. This is a whole new level of phenomenon that we are seeing. Many organizations have also emerged pushing for a ban,” Summer Lopez, director of Free Expression Programs for PEN America, told PEN America. This books.

See related: Experts say excessive book ban in Texas is ‘harmful to students’

Advocates have said book bans are nothing new, but something that has reignited in recent months amid the heated debate over critical race theory. Some Republican leaders and parents pressured school districts to review or remove books they deemed inappropriate.

Last October, actor Matt Krause of Fort Worth sent a list of about 850 books to school districts, asking how many books were available on their campuses. The Texas Tribune She stated that the move prompted parents to successfully challenge and remove books they believed were inappropriate and “pornographic”.

A month later, Governor Greg Abbott asked state education officials to develop statewide standards to prevent “pornography” and “other obscene content in Texas public schools,” citing two memos about LGBTQ figures, which include graphic images and descriptions of gender, according to the Texas Tribune.

That same month, Katy ISD made headlines after removing nine books from school libraries during the 2021-2022 school year. This came after a public outcry from a group of parents during a school board meeting, claiming that the content was too clear for their children.

Read more: Katy ISD parents want to review books in area libraries after claiming they found ‘porn’

“It’s understandable that parents may have concerns about certain content being presented to their children,” Lopez said. “I think the problem is when you decide that your concerns about your children mean that those books should be restricted to everyone else’s children as well.”

according to studyPEN America recorded 1,648 unique titles that were banned in schools across the country between July 2021 and June 2022. Of this list, 22% have sexual content, 41% feature LGBTQ+ characters and issues, 40% highlight colorful characters, 21 % deal with issues of race and racism, 10% have topics related to rights and activism, and 4% have stories related to religious minorities.

“I think it can have a really devastating effect on students who see themselves in those stories. It’s the importance of seeing yourself reflected in books. Most of the authors of these books say they wrote them in part because when they were kids, they didn’t see themselves in the books,” Lopez said. Stories.” “It is essential to see diversity in stories and perspectives. This is part of learning, empathy, critical thinking, and what it means to live in a pluralistic democracy.”

Some students took matters into their own hands after increasing the controlled substance. according to AxiosOne group at Fort Bend ISD launched its own book club, with the goal of creating a safe space for people to discuss challenging books. It’s a dilemma that Lopez doesn’t see going anywhere soon.

“Unfortunately, I think a lot of this conversation has now been politicized, and so, I would expect that with the upcoming election period, we won’t see that slow down,” she said. “We’ve also been tracking legislation that has been introduced in states across the country to restrict what can be taught at both the K-12 and undergraduate level. We’ve called these ‘educational gag orders’ and they’ve increased dramatically over the past few years.”

On Thursday, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis joined the Harris County Public Library to inform the community that 600 of the 800 books banned in Texas are available for checkout. This comes during the Banned Books Week, which is held every year during the last week of September.

“We won’t allow them to whitewash history to fit a particular political narrative,” Ellis said. “I think it’s a good opportunity to draw attention to the fact that we don’t want to erase large parts of our history.” “Texas has become ground zero for book bans.”

“This is so that people can share different perspectives and ideas. That’s the beauty of libraries. We can bring it all together and have a platform where we can be a voice for those who might not have one like this,” said Edward Melton, Director of Harris District Library General, he said.

Krause’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but the Abbott Governor’s press secretary, Renee Eze, sent ABC13 the following statement:

“Parents lose their voices when it comes to their children. When it comes to the classroom, Texas parents have every right to know what their children are being taught and have a say in their children’s education. During COVID and distance learning, parents have seen that many schools have been focusing More on indoctrination rather than education Schools need to move away from pushing political agendas and back to basics – reading, writing, math and science.Governor Abbott continues to work to ensure Texan children receive the best education by putting parents back into the primary decision makers about their children’s education and health care. Because parents matter.”

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