The Carroll Independent School District in South Lake, Texas implemented new rules for classroom libraries based on parent complaints about anti-racist reading materials. Educators are fighting back against the new rules that they feel are censoring student access to quality book. School administrators claim that teachers will receive mandatory new training on these new districtwide rules.
These news about these policy shift comes not even a week after fourth-grade teacher, Rickie Farah, got reprimanded for having a copy of This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell in her classroom library. One of Farah’s students, interested in the book when she saw it on the classroom shelf, took the book home to read. Her mother, Sarah Muns, was furious when she saw the book and complained to the school.
Muns was not only upset about the situation, but about how Farah handled her complaint about the book. Instead of backing down, Muns elevated her complaint to district officials. After an investigation, the district initially chose not to punish Farah.
But Farah still wasn’t in the clear. The Carroll school board voted 3-2 to overturn the district decision and issued a formal reprimand. She had been named Johnson’s 2021 Teacher of the Year earlier this year.
Although it appears that the new restrictions on teacher libraries comes as a result of Farah’s reprimand, Karen Fitzgerald, the district spokeswoman, insists these “are two separate issues”. This seems hard to swallow for many educators as the new rules were handed down just days after the reprimand. Especially considering that diverse reads get hit the hardest by these new rules.
The school district distributed the rubric below that asks teachers to review if their materials provide multiple perspectives. These guidelines are also based on a new Texas law that bars any lessons or materials that cause “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” to students based on race.
In protest, English teachers in the district have blocked off their classroom libraries. Some have blocked them off with caution tape, while others have papered over them posting signs reading “You can’t read any of the books on my shelves”.
Many teachers have spoken out that the new rules amount to censorship of student reading. Other teachers argue that the time spent rifling through libraries could be better spent working with students. As teachers are reviewing their libraries, the books that don’t meet these requirements are mostly diverse reads.
Titles like Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh, a picture book about ending segregation, would not meet these requirements. Teachers have expressed concerns they would need to remove titles like A Good Kind of Trouble and The Hate U Give. Even novels by Toni Morrison are under fire, as they only present one perspective on racial issues.
These new guidelines come just a year after the Carroll district attempted to require a new diversity plan. The plan would have involved diversity lessons and rules to prevent discrimination. Although this looked like a step forward, a parent sued to stop the plan. This fight also gave root to the Southlake Families PAC. This group raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for school board candidates who opposed new diversity proposals.
Southlake is not the only area dealing with backsliding diversity issues. Across the country, parents have started movements opposing diverse books and anti-racist lessons. Everything from LGBTQ+ characters to discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement could get a book pulled from the shelves.
Featured Image via The Joplin Globe