Federal Court Temporarily Blocks Texas HB 900, Citing Constitutional Concerns 

Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider their earlier decision on Texas House Bill 900 (HB 900). The court specifically blocked the provision of the bill that would have required private book vendors to assign ratings to reading materials based on criteria set by the Texas State Library and Archive Commission (TSLAC) and approved by the State Board of Education. This ruling is a victory in the ongoing struggle to maintain a rich and diverse learning environment in our public schools. 

The law, authored by Texas state Rep. Jared Patterson and enacted last summer, was allegedly intended to shield students from “sexually explicit material,” but the broad language of the bill raised concerns about potential overreach and censorship, particularly targeting LGBTQ+ perspectives and authors of color. 

Opponents of the bill have argued that the vague and broad definitions within the law could adversely affect the availability of diverse literature in schools, impacting students’ right to access a broad spectrum of viewpoints and experiences — a cornerstone of a well-rounded foundation. This concern was validated by a lawsuit brought by Texas booksellers, who contended that the law infringed upon their freedom of speech and imposed undue burdens on small businesses. 

The Fifth Circuit’s decision to block this aspect of HB 900, pending a full review of its constitutionality, underscores the judicial recognition of these concerns. The court’s ruling specifically points to “controlling precedent,” suggesting that the challenged provisions of HB 900 are likely to be found unconstitutional.