State rep tries to launch investigation into school library books on sex, gender, and race

Fancy text: Texas House of Representatives Committee on General Investigations. With State Seal

Political stunt could lead to real impacts on teachers 

On Monday, State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) penned a letter to some school districts and the Texas Education Agency on a fishing expedition for material he finds inappropriate—items on sexuality, gender, and race, and even health-related resources on AIDS.

Krause’s letter stated he is making the inquiry as the chair of the House Committee on General Investigating, although news reports suggest that no other committee members were aware of the action. The letter asks districts and the TEA to search for 850 books and other materials on Krause-supplied-list to see if they are in use or in libraries on every campus, including their location, and the cost to the district for the materials.

“It’s still a few days before Halloween and yet we have a state lawmaker out hunting for witches– in all the wrong places,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo in a response statement. “Rep. Krause has launched a ridiculous, time-consuming, and tax-dollar-wasting attempt at forming a personal hit list of books in school libraries–books he doesn’t like because they portray our diverse Texas population and the difficult issues its students face.” 

Krause wrote that he is looking for items that “might make students feel 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.”

The committee’s vice-chair, Rep. Victoria Neave (D-Dallas), told news outlets she was unaware of the letter until it was published and said Krause was using it as a political stunt, since he is running in the Republican Primary against Ken Paxton for attorney general.

“We don’t need statewide politicians and a candidate for attorney general on an inquisition to ban books,” Capo said in the statement. “We need our professionals in school offering our diverse students literature and resources to inspire them with the knowledge that they are not alone in the challenges ahead.”

While some may view Krause’s letter as political theater, it is incendiary for recent attacks against school boards and teachers related to instruction on racial issues. HB 3979 and SB 3–passed by the Legislature this year in a supposed attempt to ban “critical race theory” instruction–have led to disturbing outcomes, including:

  • Parental objections to certain books led to contentious school board meetings in Leander ISD and Katy ISD and led to reviews of the books.
  • The early October reprimand of a Carroll ISD (Southlake) teacher for having the book, This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work, in her classroom library. Two weeks later, the same district would make national news after a curriculum administrator discussing rules on following the Texas legislation told a group of teachers that if their class library contains a book on the Holocaust, they should have a book with “opposing” views.
  • The battle in Carroll ISD (Southlake) over a diversity plan also was the subject of an NBC News Podcast that showed how candidates fuming about critical race theory were funded by political action committees and elected to fight the diversity plan.
  • Groups similar to the Southlake PACs are forming throughout Texas, including Save Texas Kids in Mansfield, which somehow managed to get a list of all Dallas ISD teachers’ emails. In an email to teachers, the group implored them to report on their colleagues if there were any indications they were teaching critical race theory or “predatory gender fluidity.” One teacher, Alliance-AFT member and high-school humanities teacher Melody Townsel, fought back and used the Save Texas Kids letter for a lesson, asking students to critique it and examine the rhetorical devices used. Save Texas Kids has since called for Townsel to be fired.

The Krause letter has led some districts to start scrambling to comply with Krause’s request, while others are taking a more cautious approach, waiting to see if TEA offers any guidance. TEA has not yet commented on the issue.