TEA creates model local policy for preventing and removing ‘obscene’ library content

Looking down a row of book stacks in a library toward a bright window

The Texas Education Agency this week released a model policy on reviewing library books for “obscene” content. School districts do not have to adopt the policy, but have been asked by TEA to consider it for adoption or to expand upon existing local policy.

In a letter to districts, TEA stated: “While most school systems have a local policy (see EF Local) to review instructional resources after a parent complaint is received, school libraries are offered as places for voluntary inquiry. While instructional materials and library materials are both considered instructional resources, they are not the same….TEA’s model policy provides such a distinction by solely addressing the review, selection, and approval of library materials, including procedures to ensure transparency and clear processes for parents to challenge those chosen materials in a more comprehensive manner.”

TEA’s recommendations stem from a November directive from Gov. Greg Abbott for the agency to develop statewide standards to remove “pornographic” materials from K-12 libraries. The model policy includes detailed recommendations for district-level review committees to examine book inventories and respond to parent complaints asking for book removals. Additionally, under the policy, districts would be required to maintain online lists of all materials and planned acquisition of materials for public review. 

As noted by TEA, most districts already have review policies for instructional materials and have been using the same or a similar process to handle parental complaints against library books. Complaints have risen significantly in the past year after conservative officials began targeting schools with scurrilous claims against books on race, gender, and sexuality.