This week, the Katy ISD school board directed the school superintendent to halt the purchase of any new library books and to store any newly purchased books in a warehouse until at least April 2024 in response to a recently passed law by the Texas Legislature.
HB 900 by Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), which was recently signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, is in essence a book-banning bill. Under the bill, private book vendors, not school librarians or elected officials, would assign ratings to these materials. Depending on the book’s rating, it would either be removed from school library shelves or would require parental permission to be accessed.
Patterson, the author of the bill, alleged that the bill was not intended to be a book ban. However, numerous public education advocates including Texas AFT stated that the bill would effectively ban books that focus on Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ experiences, regardless of the intended effect.
The Katy ISD School Board decision to stop new books from entering libraries directly stemmed from a discussion of HB 900’s implementation. According to the bill, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission must first adopt school library standards before book vendors publish initial book ratings no later than April 2024.
While they wait for those lists to be published, Katy ISD board president Victor Perez suggested that the district stop any new books from entering Katy ISD libraries in order to avoid having to remove new materials that might violate the standards laid out in HB 900. Perez moved that the district indefinitely store all newly purchased books in a warehouse until the district adopts a new procedure for evaluating materials.
While the motion was eventually adopted, some trustees openly opposed the move. Trustee Rebecca Fox stated storing already purchased books in a warehouse was a waste of taxpayer money and suggested that at the very least elementary school materials, which have been less controversial in the district, be exempt from the move.
In response, Trustee Morgan Calhoun opposed an exemption and stated that she’s seen books that support “sexually explicit lifestyles” in elementary school classrooms.
When discussing the possible exemption Calhoun stated, “There are elementary schools that have Pride sections in them… so yes, elementary school, middle school, high school — all of them.”
This is not the first time that Katy ISD has been in the news for banning books. Last year, the board changed district policy to require parent permission for secondary students to check out classroom library books. In response to the increased scrutiny, one Katy ISD teacher went as far as to remove all “Young Adult” books from her classroom library to avoid controversy.