AUSTIN — In response to debates over what books should be available to Texas students, the Texas Education Agency on Monday released content guidance for school libraries.
Known as the model local board policy, the directions provide details and criteria for the selection, removal and replacement of school library materials, “focused on maximizing transparency with parents and community members while meeting student needs to provide supplemental enrichment in their learning with appropriate materials .”
“As questions continue to emerge concerning school library collections, the TEA encourages [local educational agencies] to carefully review their current selection procedures for library materials, gathering input of LEA staff, legal counsel, as well as participation from the community, particularly parents — overall, ensuring alignment between local values and state statute. To that end, this model policy will assist in those efforts,” TEA said in a statement.
In addition to following already established standards, the TEA listed criteria each material should meet including, the support and enrichment of current curriculum and/or students’ personal interests; meeting the high standards in literary, artistic and aesthetic quality; and be of appropriate subject for the intellectual development and ability level of the students they are selected.
For non-fiction resources, materials should incorporate accurate and authentic factual content from authoritative sources. For fiction, narrative nonfiction and graphic novels, materials should reflect the interests and needs of the students and faculty; be appropriate for the reading levels and understanding of students; and be included because of their literary or artistic value and merit, it said. If an item is narrative nonfiction, it must present information with the greatest degree of accuracy and clarity, it added.
TEA also recommended there be a concerted effort to involve parents and provide transparency by making the selection process of library materials readily available for parental review, as well as post a list of all library materials on the district’s website. It also recommended that the content of all materials be made available for direct review during reasonable times and that parents be provided a 10-day review period before books are placed on the shelf.
“Parents hold an essential role in the education of their children and have the right to guide what their children read,” it said.
When acquiring new books, TEA recommended a district-level designated administrator or supervisor select material based on their own expertise and request recommendations from administrators, teachers, other district personnel, parents and community representatives.
TEA also recommended a list of planned new acquisitions be submitted to the superintendent and included on the next board agenda where board members have 30 days to review the books before voting on their inclusion. Should a board member feel a material should be excluded, members should have an opportunity to present their rationale and provide alternatives before purchases are made.
In October, Texas moved to the forefront as calls for student literary censorship rang across the country.
At the time, state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, called on schools to submit whether they had any of about 850 book titles in their libraries. Krause said the list of books targeted materials that “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.” The move brought swift criticism as many of the books listed are on the subject of Black history, gender and sexuality,
Gov. Greg Abbott later directed the TEA and others to develop statewide standards “to ensure no child is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content,” to which the TEA released Monday’s recommendations.
“While most school systems have a local policy to review instructional resources after a parent complaint is received, school libraries are offered as places for voluntary inquiry,” TEA officials said. “While instructional materials and library materials are both considered instructional resources, they are not the same. Therefore, library materials should be treated differently from instructional materials used in classroom instruction.”