High school students in Granbury, Texas, spoke out against a potential banning of books about inequality from school libraries.
The book review policy, sparked by right-wing activists putting pressure on schools to ban books relating to subjects of race and sexuality, came months after state legislators passed laws seeking to ban the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms.
But students are now pushing back against being told what books they should or shouldn't have access to.
One high school junior told school officials at Monday's district meeting:
“No government—and public school is an extension of government—has ever banned books and banned information from its public and been remembered in history as the good guys."
She went on to say "opinions should not justify what information children have access to because we need to be able to see all sides of opinions."
According to Hood County News, The Granbury Independent School District (GISD) Communications Director Jeff Meador stated in an email that a committee would review any books in the district “that include controversial topics currently under investigation by the state and legislature.”
"While we acknowledge some parents and community members will not agree with the potential removal of any book, we understand the conservative climate of our community and that a large majority recognizes that several social and cultural topics are best left to parents and families to discuss with their children.”
The controversial initiative was met with backlash from some of the students and their parents after GISD pulled at least 125 books from school libraries considered for review "to determine their educational value and age appropriateness."
In October, Republican State Representative Matt Krause launched a probe into school libraries.
He compiled a list of books published from 1969 to 2021 on subjects of race, gender identity, and sexuality and asked school leaders to identify where those books may be located in libraries and classrooms and how much money the school district spent on them.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Krause additionally asked school officials to identify any other books that address human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or any material that “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race or sex.
Of the first of 100 books Krause listed, 97 were authored by women, people of color, and LGBTQ authors–some of whom won Pulitzer Prizes and other literary awards.
Some of those titles included, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.
Another student from Monday's public meeting with school officials slammed the books on Krause's list that are "under attack."
"These books are educational, not pornographic," she said.
“It’s plain and simple: If you don’t like it, put the book down. No one is forcing you to read it."
"Stop the censorship," she demanded, adding, "Wake up to the reality that we are all different and we should all embrace each other with love—not blatant hate."
Another student said:
"We want to learn about things that may not be the prettiest or the most comfortable, but we as students are entitled to complete knowledge—not information that has been disseminated."
A graduating senior who admitted she initially didn't care about the books under review said she realized how "ridiculous" it was the more she thought about it.
"I am queer, I am brown, and I'm very proud of that. And I'm well aware of the censorship that has happened to my people over the centuries."
"I don't think little children should be shocked or disgusted by our identities by the books."
She added that books on teen pregnancies, sexual education–which she said was not taught at her school–LGBTQ+ love stories, race, and activism, which she said was important to her identity that was a direct result of “colonialism and the survival of my people.”
Another student said the new move was "dangerous" and said the banning of many of the books suggested by Krause can lead to "miseducation of teens due to consistent lack of information which could add to mistrust from parents teachers and other adults in their life."
Chloe Latham Sikes with the Intercultural Development Research Association told the Dallas Morning News that when “Krause says that these are books broadly that cause students discomfort, what he means is that they might cause him discomfort.”
Latham Sikes added:
“For students who might be seeking out these books, there might be a lot of other sources of discomfort in their lives. These books are likely not one of them.”