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Texas county moves to restrict ‘explicit’ and ‘objectionable’ books at public libraries

The book ban occurs alongside the closure of dozens of school libraries in the Houston public school district

Kelly Rissman
Tuesday 01 August 2023 19:08 BST
Kamala Harris blasts Florida officials for book bans and changes to Black history curriculum

A Texas county has voted to restrict access to certain books at public libraries.

The county’s Commissioners Court voted on 11 July to limit “explicit” or “objectionable” material in public libraries to anyone under 18; this restriction includes LGBTQ-themed books, according to KHOU.

“This is really an agenda to sexualise our children at a young age,” said Lisa Palmer at a commissioner’s court meeting, the outlet reported.

Michele Nuckolls said, “I was not able to find one book on the traditional conservative Christian view of gender.”

A local bookshop owner, Teresa Kenney, challenged the restriction at the meeting: “You’re telling them there’s something wrong with them.”

“You alienate people who deserve to see themselves in the pages of books,” Ms Kenney added. “People who deserve to feel hope when they may not have hope at that time.”

She told the publication that she carries books on a variety of subject matters at her store, ranging from the Bible to LGBT+-themed literature.

Ms Kenney blasted the country’s book ban trend. “As a parent, you have a right to say what your child reads. But you don’t have the right to tell another parent what their child can or cannot read.”

“What is objectionable? What is explicit? It needs to be really defined before they can move forward,” Ms Kenney said.

Also in Texas, Houston Independent School District – the largest public school district in the state – is converting libraries at 28 schools into multi-use centers; the district is also eliminating librarians, Houston Public Media reported.

These moves are part of the district’s new superintendent Mike Miles sweeping reform programme, dubbed the New Education System. The libraries will transform into “team centres,” according to Mr Miles, dedicated to special programming for certain students who may need extra assistance in the classroom.

Earlier this year, PEN America reported that there had been at least 1,477 attempts to ban 874 individual book titles within the first half of the 2022-2023 school year. The organization reported that the instances of book bans in the 2023 school year were most prevalent in Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina.

PEN America also noted that those looking to ban books “continue to target stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”

These efforts also follow a new development at the state level. According to The Texas Tribune, booksellers are suing over House Bill 900, which requires book vendors to assign ratings “to determine whether the material describes, depicts, or portrays sexual conduct in a way that is patently offensive to books.” Texas Gov Abbott signed the measure into law in June, and it is set to go into effect on 1 September.

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