February 16, 2024

Students and teachers fight back against the ‘library selection rubric’ in a Texas public school

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In 2022, Texas has banned more books than any other state.

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The Carroll Independent School District (CISD) in Texas, United States, is facing allegations of book bans after their school board created a rubric to filter the literature that teachers could keep in their classroom libraries.

Book banning, for reference, is the concept of some authority seeking to suppress information of some kind in books by removing them from public access.

In the fall of 2021, This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewel came under fire in a grade 4 teacher’s classroom in CISD after a parent felt the book was not fit for her son’s reading.

After a long month of deliberation, the school’s board of representatives decided to hold a meeting where the new rubric was decided upon.

Since then, multiple staple books in teachers’ libraries have been removed, such as Life is So Good by George Dawson, who is the namesake for one of the North Texas District’s middle schools.

The superintendent of Carroll ISD, Lane Ledbetter, however, commented that the book “has not been banned or placed under reconsideration as part of the formal challenge process,” he did not elaborate on whether students have access to the entire book or excerpts.

This contributes to the rapidly increasing number of banned books in the country and solidifies Texas’ position as the state with the most banned books at 625 as of 2023. The state that follows is Florida, with roughly 400 books banned.

In response, both students and teachers in the district have spoken out against the school board’s decision to prominent news outlets.

Karen Otto, who teaches Advanced English II to grade 10 at the school, took more drastic action and placed caution tape over her bookshelves to represent the board’s actions against the district’s literature.

The CISD school board has since been closely monitored by the Southlake Anti-Racist Coalition (or SARC). Because of this coverage, high schoolers in the district and alumni of the district have joined SARC and other similar organizations in order to enact change in the school district.

With the help of a choir teacher, a group of students have launched an on-campus banned books club called ‘The Unlocked Library’ to read and discuss challenged books.

Madeline Riehl, a student attending the sessions, told the press that it’s a sign that students do strongly support reading books with themes of race, racism and LGBTQ+. “Our hope is that by introducing these books to people, they’re not only seeing themselves represented, but learning about other people, which creates a more inclusive environment,” Madeline added.

Founding member Megha Kadiyala, a junior student at CISD, stated “we have the ability to make changes within our own schools.”

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Sanjana Senthil

Contributor

Texas, United States

An eleventh grader from Texas, Sanjana is an avid writer, predominantly on the topics of current affairs and introspection. She focuses on fiction, but occasionally writes essays, op-eds, and more.

She is the founder of Kathai, a teen literary organization focused on bringing the publishing world to teens in a fun way. Her favorite movies are Dead Poets Society, Ladybird, and Amelie. She also loves music, particularly Taylor Swift, Clairo, and Sufjan Stevens.

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Megan Lee

Culture Section Editor

Hong Kong | United Kingdom

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