Concerns Over Book Censorship in Garland ISD: A Parent's Perspective

New EF policy "Regulation" grants one administrator authority to overturn reconsideration committee outcomes, and requires librarians to read "potentially inappropriate" books in full prior to purchase approval.

As a long-time parent within the Garland Independent School District (GISD), I have always valued the commitment of educators to foster an environment of learning and exploration for our children. However, recent developments regarding the censorship of books within school libraries have raised significant concerns among parents like myself.

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One of the most important spaces in a school is its library, curated by trained professionals who understand the importance of collection development. These librarians carefully select books that not only align with educational standards but also cater to the diverse interests and needs of students. They are trained to follow district guidelines and board policy when adding books to their campus libraries. While speaking with an educator in Garland ISD (who wishes to remain anonymous) some new situations were brought to my attention that are very concerning.

New Regulation Targeting Books and Librarians in Garland ISD

Recently, a new regulation was written by district administrators to go along with Board Policy EF and shared with teachers, librarians, and administrators in GISD. It is my understanding that, since this is a regulation, this did not go through our school board to be approved.

This new Regulation that recently emerged mandates librarians to read potentially inappropriate material in its entirety before adding it to the collection. However, what constitutes "potentially inappropriate" remains alarmingly vague, leaving room for subjective interpretation. Furthermore, this regulation places undue pressure on librarians, who are now held responsible for their collection regardless of when a book was added.

Authority in Decision Making

Even more concerning is the provision granting the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, who (as of the time of this writing) according to the GISD website is Dr. Kimberly Caddell, the power to veto decisions made by reconsideration committees. Despite the requirement for 80% agreement within the committee to reach a conclusion, the Assistant Superintendent's discretion ultimately prevails. This raises questions about the purpose of such committees if one individual can unilaterally decide the fate of a book. As a parent, it is concerning to me that one administrator in this district has the power to override a well thought out and majority vote committee decision and choose for our children what they have access to read at her discretion.

Risk of over-censorship

Adding to the concern is a directive by district administrators for librarians to pull and review books in their entirety based on keywords like "sex." HB900 does not require districts to review their library collections to rate books. The broad implementation seems to cast a wide net, encompassing topics such as sex roles, sexual identity, consent, harassment, and discrimination. This broad approach risks censoring valuable resources that help provide comprehensive education.

Lack of Transparency

Although there is evidence that there have been recent meetings of reconsideration committees in Garland ISD, the fact that there's no transparency about challenged books and the decisions made by these committees cause even more concern. Several educators confirm serving on a reconsideration committee in the past two school years, and requests have gone out asking for volunteers to serve. At the time of the writing of this article, a list of books challenged or reviewed for content does not exist on the district website, accessible for the community.

Limitations on Access and Contradictions with Regulation

Yet another issue is the restrictions that are now placed on what the librarians can purchase for their students to access. From the age-appropriate chart in the recent regulation, books will now be very limited. For example, YA, which is written for grades 7th and up, is now prohibited from being purchased in a middle school library. However, two-thirds of the students at a middle school are 7th and 8th graders. This puts a huge limitation on what our children can now read. The 8th graders will now be limited to choosing a book on the same interest level as a 6th grader. Same for high school, who are now prohibited from purchasing any adult fiction, even though many of their students are adults (18). According to this new policy, even the staff in Garland ISD will no longer have access to adult fiction through the district library.

This new regulation contradicts the Library Collection Goals of the district, along with state and local guidelines, found in the same document. It states that “Collections should also provide materials of high interest to encourage student reading and learning.” This new regulation and restriction on age level purchases does not adhere to the state and local library collection guidelines.

Advocate for Change

As a parent invested in the educational journey of my child and those within GISD, I urge school administrators to reconsider these restrictive measures. Preserving the integrity of our school libraries as inclusive spaces for exploration and learning should be a priority. Collaboration and transparency are essential in addressing concerns about book selection and ensuring that diverse perspectives are valued and respected.

I urge parents to contact the Garland ISD school board and urge them to support the campus librarians, as well as the staff and community members that serve on the reconsideration committees. The committee’s educated, well thought out decisions are being undermined and possibly overruled by one administrator. 

About the Author

This story was submitted by a Garland ISD parent who requested to remain anonymous. 

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A note from Texas Freedom to Read Project regarding anonymously published stories.

Texas Freedom to Read Project is committed to uplifting the stories and voices of parents, educators, librarians, students and community members throughout the state of Texas. We research and vet the stories and sources we choose to publish and share, and will honor requests by guest writers to publish information anonymously whenever possible. 

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