TISD removes books from THS library

District to review books for suitability

Books+sit+on+a+cart+apart+from+the+rest+of+the+library+texts+with+a+note+to+students.+TISD+removed+the+books+from+the+library+on+Sept.+28%2C+2022+as+part+of+a+review+for+educational+suitability.

Photo by Dakota Dennard

Books sit on a cart apart from the rest of the library texts with a note to students. TISD removed the books from the library on Sept. 28, 2022 as part of a review for educational suitability.

Story by Reese Langdon, Joseph Haynes-Stewart and Sophie Keller

Two shelves of books sit isolated in librarian Brooke Ferguson’s office on an orange, metal cart. Far away from all the other jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching, information-rich books that make the library so vibrant and inclusive to all. These texts are concealed behind caution tape on their desolate cart, a persistent reminder to students of what the government feels high school students should not access. On Sept. 28, 2022, these books were crammed into boxes and taken away from the Texas High School library.

THS is not the first high school in the state to have books taken for review. In 2021, a list of 850 books was sent to the Texas Education Agency to be reviewed for objectionable material by Texas Rep. Matt Krause. All of these books contained material relating to racism, teen pregnancy, the LGBTQ community or human rights. 

“This is a review of these library books,” director of marketing and communications Todd Marshall said. “As this review is conducted, the library books will not be available to students, however, no decision has been made regarding the educational suitability of any of these library books.”

The TISD board policy of instructional material states, “a parent of a district student, any employee, or any district resident can challenge an instructional material [book] used in the district’s educational program on the basis of appropriateness.”

According to the policy, “no challenged instructional resource shall be removed solely because of the ideas expressed therein.” However, it’s hard to know if that statement actually stands true because a majority of the books set to be removed from school libraries are on the list solely because of the ideas they present; a direct contradiction to the final statement of TISD’s Instructional Resources policy.

Texas governance may suggest removing books that are found taboo, but it is unknown who actually made the decision to remove the books from the Texas High library. 

Despite this, local educators continue to raise concerns about the topic.

“I feel, as a public educator, that in this sector students should have the ability and access to materials that are culturally diverse, that will allow them to formulate their own opinions and be able to be informed because education is power,” Texas High educator and Texarkana City Council member Christie Page said.

Politicians seek to justify these actions with the arguments centered around vulgar depictions or inappropriate topics. For example, author Jason Reynolds’ book ‘All American Boys’ regarding police brutality was one of the books taken away from the library.

“Jason Reynolds is a great author that’s being removed. I’ve read just about everything by him, and I’ve used it in classrooms to teach kids to make connections,” Page said.

Kids, especially students of color, have been able to relate to an author, a male of color, and I just don’t know the message that it sends to them.”

— Christie Page

The long term effect on children due to this move is another hot topic of debate. While some think this will be effective in clearing improper things from education, others worry about the precedent the removal sets for our youth.

“I believe that the change, in the future, will cause some division and chaos,” Page said. “Educators teach on one hand, that you’re supposed to have an open mind, so to limit what we’re able to access and read, I think will put a hindrance on us in the classroom.”

The students of Texas High are left confused.

“It is disappointing that the government wants to take away our opportunity to learn in this certain area,” senior Luckey Abhulimen said. “As our culture changes and grows, we are obligated to learn and be updated with what goes on in the current day.”

The right to learn personal cultures is a tenet of the First Amendment. Some would argue that if these books do not return, the removal of the books is a violation of these rights.

“I think this affects our First Amendment rights because it is taking away the right to learn what students want to,” Abhulimen said. “This is holding us back because we are not given the chance to talk or learn about what we want to know. Overall, this is destroying our freedom.”