Texas Schools Respond to House’s Survey of Library Books on Sexuality and Race

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At least two of the state’s largest school districts will not comply with a request from the chairman of a Republican general committee of inquiry to release information about books kept in school and classroom libraries – and even more say they will miss its Friday deadline.

The Austin and Dallas Independent School Districts say they will not respond to a request from State Representative Matt Krause to go through a list of more than 800 books and tell him how many copies are in their possession and how much do they cost. Houston ISD, the state’s largest public school system, declined to say whether it would do the legislature’s tender.

In a letter making the request, Krause, a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, described the impetus of the investigation as a series of controversies in Texas school districts – Carroll, Spring Branch, Lake Travis, Leander and Katy – involving books parents wanted to remove shelves.

The Fort Worth Republican has repeatedly declined to comment, saying the committee’s long-standing policy is not to comment on ongoing investigations. Krause said in a radio interview that the purpose of the investigation is to determine whether recent laws governing what can be taught in schools about race and sexuality are being followed.

An analysis from Hearst Newspapers found that the majority of books on lawmakers’ watchlist focus on LGBT topics, not race or sex education.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has also made books about LGBT people the subject of his own letters to the Texas Education Agency, asking him to work with other state agencies to set new standards to prevent children being exposed to “pornography or other inappropriate content.” and investigate all possible related crimes.

Democrats and some lawyers told districts the request did not have the legal force of a subpoena and encouraged them not to respond. This is exactly what some people do.

“The letter is an unofficial request, and as such we are not going to respond to it,” said Robyn L. Harris, spokesperson for ISD Dallas.

Austin ISD spokesperson Jason Stanford offered an alternative solution for Krause.

“After doing more legal research, we decided that an answer was not necessary, especially since anyone can search our library catalogs on this website,” he said.

Several districts contacted by Hearst Newspapers said they were still reviewing the application at the end of the week, and some said they were unsure whether they would meet the deadline, including Fort Bend and Spring Branch in the Greater Montreal area. Houston and Northside in the San Antonio area.

Multiple districts said they were unsure whether the letter applied to them or required a response because it was addressed to the Texas Education Agency but sent a blind carbon copy to the districts.

Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD officials in the Fort Worth area are asking for an extension.

“We have removed 10 to 12 educators from our curriculum and education department, as well as our district library director, to work full-time on compiling the requested information,” said spokesperson Megan Overman. “As of (Friday), we estimate that over 250 hours of staff time have been spent just on this request. We endeavor to use due diligence in finding and responding to Representative Krause’s request.

The northeast ISD in the San Antonio area was also having scheduling issues. A district spokesperson said he will produce the information when it is ready.

Round Rock ISD Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez, in a letter to Krause on Friday, passed on the district library catalog website and explained the district’s process for parent objections to educational resources. The letter did not contain information on the cost of the books on the district’s Krause List.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Lewisville ISD said it plans to treat Krause’s investigation as a request for public information and sent out a cost estimate this week.

Others postponed the action. In a statement, Katy ISD spokesperson Laura Davis noted that State Representative Harold Dutton, D-Houston, chairman of the House Public Education Committee, had asked Krause for clarification on the purpose of the investigation.

In light of this, “Katy ISD along with several other districts are waiting to receive further guidance from the state,” Davis said.

Districts affected by Hearst Newspapers that said they were studying or still working on demand are: Aldine, Fort Bend, North East, Northside, Spring Branch, and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw.

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