Free speech group says ‘chilling’ Texas bill would restrict books in schools

A national free speech organization is raising alarm over the “dangerous escalation” of Texas lawmakers’ efforts to limit what books are available to students in school.

Rap this week. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, filed a bill that would create a state-mandated classification for school library books based on what age is appropriate.

But such a system gives government officials “unprecedented power” to dictate what students and families can read, which can be determined based on subjective and possibly political decisions, officials said in a release at PEN America. .

It’s a “clear attempt to intimidate publishers and the police into circulating ideas and information,” the statement continued. “The mere introduction of this censorship legislation is outrageous.”

Oliverson could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

The bill, one of hundreds filed this week ahead of the next legislative session, lays out a proposed rating system that would indicate to publishers whether a book is suitable for children younger than 7. Content that contains “explicit depictions of sexuality, gross profanity, and graphic violence” will be labeled as only for ages 17 and over.

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Under the proposal, each book would require a “sticky on the cover” rating. If publishers fail to comply, schools can be barred from buying any books from them.

“It’s pretty scary for students like me to witness first-hand the blatant attempts to erase our identity and our history,” said Cameron Samuels, a recent graduate of Katy ISD High School.

Samuels spoke at a virtual event Wednesday to address the increase in book restrictions organized by the Campaign for Our Shared Future, which aims to support high-quality and inclusive K-12 education.

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“Students across the country are facing the harsh effects of censorship,” Samuels said.

With the proposal, Oliverson, who serves as vice chairman of the Texas House GOP Caucus, joins other conservatives who have recently pushed for stricter restrictions on what students can read.

Starting with efforts to ban the teaching of critical race theory — an educational framework that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism — from schools, conservatives also began to address topics around race, gender, and sexuality. have followed. Sexuality and LGBTQ issues.

This week, the Keller school board adopted a policy that bans library books at all grade levels that touch on gender fluidity.

Keller school trustees ban books about gender fluidity, debate armed staff
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A September report, also from PEN America, found that Texas pulled more books from school libraries than any other state this year, with more than 800 books pulled from school shelves between July 2021 and June 2022. .

The DMN Education Lab accelerates coverage and conversation about education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, including the Beck Group, Bobby and Lottie Lyle, Community Foundation of Texas, Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Daddy Rose, Garrett and Cecelia Bowen, The Meadows Foundation, Morrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sidney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and The University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News maintains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.

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