Matt Krause, member of the Texas House of Representatives, has compiled a list of 850 books he believes to cause students discomfort. As a result, over 400 books have been pulled from book shelves around the district for review. This has caused outrage for students like senior Sage McClenney, who believe it is a purely political move.
“I think that a lot of times people in power and administrators on any level use different reasons that are valid, but aren’t accurate to cover up the real reason they’re doing things. The reason they used was that it could cause dismay or distress from people reading them,” McClenney said. “But it’s information we need to know and be able to have access to. Especially on social and political topics that are solely based on the kind of books they want to remove.”
According to San Antonio Express News, 75 books have been flagged for removal in NEISD libraries so far. These said books have been flagged because of “vulgar” or “obscene” depictions.
“There were a lot of LGBTQ+ books and many books on movements like Black Lives Matter. Those were the majority of what they were focusing on,” McClenney said. “If you look at that and you’re like ‘oh, that’s going to cause distress and dismay,’ it’s [still] information that we need to know, and you’re basically saying you’d rather us live in a world that we’re oblivious to, versus being informed.”
Texas is typically a conservative state and McClenney recognizes that students should have access to information no matter what state they live in. She believes those in power making these decisions need to be re-evaluated.
“There should be more of a say in it for our generation because we’re growing up and we’re about to be the future of America,” McClenney said. “I feel like they would want us to be well educated on all topics, instead of limiting that, especially in an educational facility.”
McClenney originally saw a post on the list of books being circulated on Instagram. That’s when she decided to read it through, evaluate the information, and repost it on her own Instagram story.
“I didn’t see any that I read. Someone told me that “They Both Die at the End” was on there and it’s a just a fiction novel, but an LGBTQ+ fictional novel, and that was one of the best reads that I’ve had in years,” McClenney said. “So the fact that they would take that away, solely because it is based on a gay romance, makes no sense to me. I can tell you right now that there are books in the library right now that are far more depressing than that, and causing kids to be a lot more sad than that book did.”
McClenney looks at the list from a more progressive perspective, and she emphasizes the importance of discussion to catalyze change.
“If you want things to change, you can’t be afraid to talk about them, and I was really happy to see a lot of my peers reposting that just to spread the information,” McClenney said. “Because when I saw [the list], I know I got really upset, so I know I wanted to let other people know about this, so that I can see what their reaction is. Are they also angered by this? Do they care?”
McClenney felt the need to post the information concerning the list of books on her Instagram; she wanted to participate in what she felt was right to inform others.
“So I just wanted to post it, because I think it is really important to just be in the know. I mean, especially when you’re in high school, typically people aren’t super involved with politics and the news,” McClenney said. “So especially when you can say ‘this is affecting you right now’, it makes people want to be more interactive.”
Even after students formed their own opinions and decided how they felt based off of circulation on social media, according to librarian Haley Schmidt, the district had already taken steps to ensure the books on each campus are age appropriate. The goal is to prevent, for instance, a high school book reaching a middle school shelf.
“That was already being started, and then when the Krause list came out in October, North East used that as a jumping off point as books to start reviewing to make sure the books on each campus were age appropriate for that campus,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt reassures students that the goal is not to remove books, but rather ensure books that are kept on the shelves are appropriate.
“Really, students are only affected very temporarily, so the books are being pulled off and I’m reviewing them as fast as I can in-between other duties. So, as soon as I review a book and make sure that it doesn’t have obscene images, then it’s going back on the shelf. And that’s the goal,” Schmidt said. “The goal is to look for obscene, not high school age-appropriate books, and if there are any, those would be the ones pulled. But the goal is to put nearly all of them back.”
Schmidt hopes to put all of the books back on the shelves once they have been reviewed for obscenity. Ideally, no books should come off the shelves.
“I do believe a library is a very important resource for students to expand their perspective and gain more knowledge. All of us in the district pride ourselves on developing a collection that represents everybody in the community – students, staff, the entire community of the high school,” Schmidt said. “So, the goal is to keep all of the books in here, and honestly only take out any if any are removed for that obscene part.”