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Texas House Committee Investigates School Libraries' Books on Racism and Sexuality

CC0 / / a library
a library - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.10.2021
The news has caused anger and indignation among Democratic lawmakers as well as teachers, who accused the committee of attempting to whitewash US history and censor the voices of people of colour. The probe comes a month after the Lone Star State passed legislation that restricts how teachers can discuss racism in schools.
Matt Krause, the chairman of the Texas House Committee, has launched an investigation into the state's school libraries. In a letter sent to the Texas Education Agency, the official asked to provide information whether libraries possess books that deal with racism and sexuality as well as works that "address or contain" topics of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and AIDS.
Explaining his decision, he cited news that a number of schools had removed books from libraries after receiving "objections from students, parents, and taxpayers".

Rep. Krause also asked to identify any books that may cause "discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously".

He attached a 16-page list of books that he is looking for. Among them are best-selling and award-winning works like the Pulitzer-winning novel "The Confessions of Nat Turner" about the 1831 slave revolt in Virginia and "How to Be an Antiracist" by Ibram X Kendi. Also on the list are books that address teen pregnancy, sex education, abortions, homosexuality, the lives of members of the LGBTQ community, as well as books about the Black Lives Matters movement.
Schools have until 12 November to provide a written response to the inquiry.

'Political Overreach Into the Classroom'

The news of the ongoing probe has caused anger among teachers and lawmakers. Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released a statement, calling the probe a "witch hunt" and "disturbing political overreach into the classroom".

"Nothing in state law, not even in HB3979 or SB3, gives a legislator the authority to conduct this type of witch hunt. This is an obvious attack on diversity and an attempt to score political points at the expense of our children's education. What will Rep. Krause propose next? Burning books he and a handful of parents find objectionable?", the statement read.

Vice Chair of the Texas House Committee, Democrat Victoria Neave, said Mr Krause did not put the letter to a vote and she learned about it from a school official. Ms Neave described the probe as a "PR stunt" and an attempt by Republicans to "to censor the voices of people of colour" and "whitewash" US history.

The inquiry comes several months after Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that restricts how teachers can discuss racism in the classroom. Among other things, House Bill 3979 states that teachers "can't be forced to discuss current events or widely debated controversial issues" and that teachers would also "to the best of their ability, give diverse perspectives without deference to any one perspective".

When signing the bill into law Governor Abbott said that it is aimed at abolishing critical race theory, an academic movement based on the theory that racism is still present in American institutions and laws.

House Bill 3979 has been met with opposition from teachers and lawmakers alike, who have argued that the legislation would hinder necessary conversations about current events, such as last year's killing of African American George Floyd by a white police officer, which sparked the biggest protests against racial discrimination in the United States since the death of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.
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