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Restrictive School Board Policies Threaten the Right to Read

Advocacy, TLA News

The new school year was barely a day old before school districts across Texas began announcing new policies designed to restrict access to books in school libraries and classrooms, to the detriment of students and their families. While they justify these steps as being in the best interest of their communities, these actions are driven by political pressure from individuals and organized groups working to impose their own agendas on Texas public schools and every single family that sends children to those schools. 

School board members are elected to establish direction and set goals for a school district. They must ensure that district policies serve to accomplish those goals as well as provide a safe, welcoming environment where all students and employees feel respected and valued. Recent policies put in place by some districts exclude certain students and families, dismissing their experiences and beliefs as unimportant or unsuitable. Some also make it difficult for students to meet their academic goals by requiring parents to “opt in” for their children to have access to library services and materials. 

Proponents of removing books and access to libraries, unhappy with long established collection development and review policies, have pushed school boards to establish new, restrictive, and burdensome policies which make it harder for books to be purchased, and easier for books they don’t approve of to be removed. 

While parents have the right and are encouraged to be active participants in their child’s education, including the selection of the books they read, they do not have the right to impose their personal beliefs on other families or make decisions for all children. When school boards approve policies designed to appease one group, they deny the rights of others in the community.

Library collections are developed by highly educated, certified school librarians with input from parents, students, teachers, and administrators, to  include a wide variety of topics that serve the needs of EVERY student. These passionate, experienced educators are being vilified, bullied, and in some instances, threatened for merely doing their jobs.

Subjective censorship robs our children and their families of the right to freedom of inquiry. It  negatively impacts their education and ability to think critically and holistically about the world in which they live while limiting their capacity for academic exploration and growth. 

Schools should be more than just places where children learn to read and write. They should be places where students’ access to literature fosters creativity and expands their minds to make them well-rounded members of society who are successful and self-determinate.  

The Texas Library Association and the Texas Association of School Librarians (a TLA division), which represent more than 5000 librarians, and the over 3,000 members of Texans for the Right to Read stand in support of school librarians who endeavor to select library books and materials that reflect the lived experiences of the students and families they serve. The denigration and harassment of these dedicated professionals is unacceptable and must stop. We are ready and equipped to defend the  freedom to read and promote district library policies that are equitable, transparent, and reasonable.