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Keller ISD stands out as banned book controversy continues in Texas and across the country

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Last week, the Keller Independent School District ordered principals to remove dozens of books from school shelves that have been challenged by parents and community members since last fall. The directive, issued on the eve of the new school year, has made national news because of which books were caught in the crossfire. Diary of Anne FrankToni Morrison bluest eyesand even the Bible.

The ban has contributed to a rise in censorship overtaking schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Texas, and across the country. PEN America has tracked hundreds of book bans in school districts across the country. This spring, in her 26 states, he recorded more than 1,500 book bans in nine months. Texas leads the pack with her over 700 bans, and other reports confirm the dire situation.

But despite book bans becoming surprisingly commonplace, Keller’s edict is particularly brazen — not just which titles were removed, but Keller bulldozed his own community in the process.

Our research shows that when school officials ban books en masse, they usually ignore the district’s own policies and procedures. In many cases, this process is disturbingly loose. Someone complains about a book online, the book ends up on a list, the list is sent to the school district, and the school district bans the book. In many cases, school bans have been imposed without any notice or public explanation.

At first, Keller’s approach was superior to other approaches. Last school year, members of the community joined committees to empower them to read, discuss and decide the fate of contested books. The district maintained a public tracker for these issues and deliberations.

In some cases, Keller’s committee decided to keep the books in question available at the school. Others said their complaints were not really accepted.challenged individual Diary of Anne Frank never appeared to defend their position.

Now, the school district’s current Board of Education (three recently elected members) has decided to roil those past processes because of newly passed policies. Their directives ignore and nullify the work of these committees. Remove books that have already been banned or are not currently being challenged.

how does this make sense? Should the board simply repeat these committee processes annually until the desired results are achieved?

School boards have room to set the curriculum. However, especially when it comes to school libraries, we are supposed to respect students’ First Amendment rights to access information. Parents also play an important role in their children’s education, but when it comes to public institutions, this kind of process must be facilitated in a fair, consistent and rational way.

Keller’s turnaround is extremely undemocratic, with board members overruling the will of parents and the general public from last school year. The whole thing feels like an authoritarian tactic trying to undo an election loss.

Young people learn best when exposed to a wide range of perspectives and life experiences, especially those that may be different from their own. What lessons should her LGBTQ teens and students of color take from adults who have decided their stories aren’t appropriate for the classroom?

Sadly, Keller is not an anomaly. It’s a disturbing example of how attacks on students’ First Amendment rights and historically marginalized identities are unfolding in Texas and across America.

Jonathan Friedman is the Director of Free Speech and Education for the free speech organization PEN America. He wrote this column for his Dallas Morning News.

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