Advocates Encourage Student Inclusion on Katy ISD Book Review Board

By George Slaughter, Editor

As Katy school administrators consider how or whether to change the district’s policy on reviewing and possibly removing books from school libraries, advocates are calling for the inclusion of students in the review committee. They also ask to keep a challenged book available to students during the review process.

Jennifer Edozie, Henry Ebben and Logan McLean are seniors at Cinco Ranch High School. Anne Russey is a mother and counsellor. They spoke in an interview Monday at the Cinco Ranch Public Library.

Currently, McLean said, the policy provides for the inclusion of students on the review board. But administrators are expected to revisit the policy at their Sept. 26 meeting amid an ongoing debate over books being removed from school library shelves and the policy guiding those actions. The policy is on the district website at katyisd.org/Page/4310. More information is at the short URL bit.ly/3AVzNvi.

McLean said directors Rebecca Fox and Victor Perez have expressed opposition to the idea. Director Dawn Champagne also voiced her opposition at the last directors’ meeting.

Edozie said having students on the committee gives students the opportunity to ensure student views are considered. She said she and others wanted to make sure students selected for the committee were at least 18 years old and had a mature outlook.

“To be fair, there are college and high school kids who really don’t have that adult, mature perspective,” Edozie said. “So it would be fair to at least try to reach students who can give their perspective on these things and have their say. Also, there’s just a generational gap which, to be fair, only adults and parents can’t fill and can’t really get into the minds of young students, just like I can’t get into the minds of a grown adult So if you’re going to make policies about students they themselves, at least they get the right to represent themselves through someone else being elected to represent them.

Ebben said there are ways district officials could find such students.

“They could ask the students to nominate someone to represent them,” Ebben said. “I think there are issues with that and I don’t think it’s the best idea, but I think the idea of ​​asking adults to find someone they feel is mature enough to make those decisions , it’s probably the best.”

Russey said she has reviewed book review policies for other districts.

“Our district is unique in that we’ve never had high school students on book review boards,” Russey said. “So we don’t have to recreate the wheel. There are already best practices in comparable school districts across the state of Texas. When it comes to logistics, the librarians and staff involved are most qualified to consult with their peers, consult with the TASB (Texas Association of School Boards), consult with anyone to help us put a process in place.

The district maintains a list of books it has pulled from shelves on its website, the URL of which is katyisd.org/Page/4311. Currently, district officials have estimated 10 books should be removed, all due to “pervasive vulgarity”. The latest book to be released in February is A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas.

Ebben said most of the books that have been taken down or challenged are about minorities or LGBTQ people.

“We read 1984 (by George Orwell) and there’s straight sex in that book, but they’re pulling All Boys Aren’t Blue (by George M. Johnson) because there’s gay sex or gay influences in it,” Ebben said.

Russey said that despite claims to the contrary, the disputed books involve LBGTQ issues and people.

“They’re trying to make us believe that we didn’t watch them all fight New Kid and Class Act a few months ago,” Russey said. “They came after those books because they had CRT (critical race theory), which I guess is also vulgar in a way.”

Russey expressed concerns about the policy as it is currently written, as parents outnumber educators and administrators.

“And as a parent, I think that’s a bad idea because I’m not as qualified as a librarian who has a master’s degree and studies book challenges and censorship extensively as part of their master’s degree. “Russey said. “I don’t want a bunch of these book-burning, censoring parents making decisions for my child, and that’s the way it is right now. I have concerns for our students who are so brave and willing to give their time to do this. But I don’t want them to get crushed by these parents.

Ebben said it was important to know which books were being challenged and why.

“Whenever the people in power don’t want you to read something, there’s a reason, and I think seeking out those books when you know they’re going to be taken away from you is really important,” Ebben said. “Because otherwise you won’t have access to it later.”

Edozie accepted.

“I haven’t read all of the books that have been taken off the shelves or banned, necessarily, but I have dug and researched a good majority of them just to figure out if there was anything something very disturbing and crazy about these books, or if it was something about them taking away our rights to read this book for their own biased reasoning,” Edozie said.

Russey expressed concern that the trustees might want to reverse a review committee decision on a given book. She said that if the trustees chose to go that route, they would undermine the committee they created.

About Stephen Ewing

Check Also

London FXJSC Legal Sub-Committee Meeting Minutes – June 8, 2022

Minutes Meeting date: June 8, 2022Time: 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. | Location: Video meeting …